To an offensive coordinator probing for weaknesses in his opponent, a rookie cornerback is like a straggling caribou to a hungry wolf. He’s a natural target.
Whether it’s Kenneth Acker or Keith Reaser, whoever starts at right cornerback for the 49ers on Monday will be playing in his first regular-season contest, which means he is sure to be tested by Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the Vikings’ offense.
But that player won’t be a rookie. Instead Reaser and Acker are two of general manager Trent Baalke’s so-called “redshirt” players – youngsters who were injured early in their careers who suddenly are being asked to fill big roles on the 49ers’ dramatically re-tooled roster.
Neither has performed like a newcomer this offseason.
“You feel their excitement about the opportunity that they have and the challenges that they’re going to have, and that’s what you look for,” defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said. “The last thing you want as a coach is to have a guy that you’re comforting through the first game. So I’ve liked that, and the young guys have a nice quality about them, because sometimes they don’t know what they don’t know. And that’s a good thing.”
Reaser missed his rookie season due to a complication from an ACL injury suffered in October 2013 when he was at Florida Atlantic. He needed another surgery the following February because his body rejected the graft that initially was used to repair the injury. The 49ers drafted him in the fifth round in May of 2014.
Acker was selected one round later. He had a strong offseason as a rookie but went on injured reserve before the year began after team doctors detected a stress fracture in his foot.
Each has shown a hunger this offseason that comes from sitting out a season, or in Reaser’s case, a season and a half. And both say they benefited by not being treated like special cases by the 49ers last year.
They traveled to all the games, observed all the practices and attended the meetings. If they had been late to a meeting, they would have been fined just as a starting player would be.
“I don’t have to think of a lot of things like field noise and what it’s like going to another NFL stadium,” Acker said. “The 49ers do a great job at that as far as bringing everybody with them (on the road). We didn’t really feel left out in any way. We knew that our time would come, and now it’s here.”
As far as who wins the starting job, Mangini said it hinged on how hard they practiced during the week and how well they meshed with the game plan for the Vikings.
“We’ll work it out at the end of the week,” he said.
Either way, the two young cornerbacks know they’ll be a focus for Minnesota.
“For sure,” Acker said. “It’s a rookie situation in a way because it’s (our) first actual game. I look it as an opportunity where I know the ball’s going to come at some point.”
Housing shocks Hayne – Jarryd Hayne hasn’t been intimated by linebackers, nose tackles and defensive ends during his pursuit of an NFL roster spot. The Bay Area housing market? Yikes. That’s a different beast.
“Finding an apartment in Silicon Valley is doing my head in!” the Aussie running back wrote on Twitter this week. “Who knows some people that know some people?”
Like his fellow 49ers rookies, Hayne has been living out of a hotel in recent months. After he made the 53-man roster last week, he set out to find an apartment. Update: He’s still looking.
“Silicon Valley – yeah, the prices are a bit crazy around here,” he said. “I’m almost there. Over the weekend, before the game, I’ll be settled in.”
Earlier this year, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Santa Clara topped $3,000 a month, one of the highest rates in California. It’s since dipped to $2,998, according to an online listing service.
By contrast, someone could rent a nice, two-bedroom apartment in Parramatta, Australia – where Hayne was a star for the local Rugby League squad – for about $1,300 U.S. dollars per month.
Brock looks good – Jim Tomsula said he didn’t see any indication that cornerback Tramaine Brock is still bothered by the hamstring injury he suffered last month. Brock, the only player on the 49ers’ injury report, is listed as probable for Monday’s game.
Moody joins Seahawks – Add Nick Moody to the long list of players who have been cut by the 49ers and wound up in Seattle. The Seahawks signed the former linebacker, a surprise cut last week, to their practice squad. Moody also had worked out for the Giants and Chiefs.