San Francisco 49ers

49ers cornerback K’Waun Williams: Talk softly, make a big pick

Cornerback K’Waun Williams (24) returns an interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third quarter of the 49ers’ 44-33 victory Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
Cornerback K’Waun Williams (24) returns an interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third quarter of the 49ers’ 44-33 victory Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. AP

Nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams was the first free agent 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch signed when they took over in February.

He didn’t exactly talk his way into the building.

“I was with him for one year in Cleveland (in 2014) and probably said, like, three words to him while we were there,” Shanahan said Sunday. “He doesn’t talk much at all, and I don’t either when I’m on offense. But I just watched how he went about his work every day.”

In September, Williams also became the first – and only – 49er this year to sign a contract extension, one that puts him under contract through the 2020 season. During Sunday’s 44-33 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, he underscored his value.

His third-quarter interception – Williams batted the ball to himself on an over-the-middle pass – came a series after the Jaguars took their first lead of the afternoon. The play seemed to jolt the 49ers back into a rhythm.

They regained the lead with a Jimmy Garoppolo-to-George Kittle touchdown five plays later and scored on their next two possessions as well. Shanahan noted the Jaguars scored 19 straight points and were steadily taking control of the game when Williams made his interception.

“It’s tough to overcome against that kind of team,” he said. “When K’Waun made that play, I feel like it got the momentum back in us and everyone fed off each other.”

Cornerback promises to be high on the team’s offseason to-do list.

Williams and boundary cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon are the only two at the position who are under contract for next season. Starter Dontae Johnson, who scored a touchdown on an interception but who also was picked on by Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, is an unrestricted free agent. So is veteran Leon Hall.

Two more cornerbacks, Greg Mabin and Tyvis Powell, are exclusive-rights free agents. Neither has much experience, but the 49ers could retain them fairly easily.

At 5-foot-9 and 183 pounds, Williams usually is the smallest player on the field. His position opposite the opponent’s slot receiver puts him near the center of the action.

He doesn’t shy away. Williams had five tackles, a pass break-up and, according to Pro Football Focus, allowed only 11 yards in coverage Sunday. The scouting service gave him his highest rating of the season.

The way Williams works off the field, however, is what earned him his contract extension.

“We were very familiar with the type of person he is, and once we got him into camp, we could see quickly that he was still the same player that we remembered,” Shanahan said. “When you know the player and you know the guy and what (he’s) made of, he’s the type of guy you want to make sure we keep around.”

Et cetera – The 49ers began Sunday with the fourth pick in the upcoming draft. With their victory, they would now have the seventh pick if the season were over.

▪ The 49ers have the NFL’s longest winning streak at four games. They haven’t done that since 2013, when the team won the last six games of the regular season.

▪ Garoppolo’s 1,250 passing yards in his first four starts are the most by a 49ers quarterback in franchise history.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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