One member of the San Francisco 49ers secondary has shown rapid growth during the team’s late season surge: Limiting the receptions his side and also snatching one highlight interception that resonated with the ‘Niners faithful.
But now, there’s a chance Ambry Thomas won’t be on the field for the Saturday, January 22 showdown at Green Bay.
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The rookie cornerback has been limited in practice during the week of the Packers NFC Divisional round contest as he’s been dealing with a bone bruise in his knee, head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed to reporters during his press conference on Thursday, January 20.
On Tuesday, Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News spotted a limping Thomas.
There is optimism, though, from Shanahan that Thomas can still suit up for the likes of Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers and company. However, it’s one that the head coach will monitor.
“I’m hoping he’ll go. I think he’ll be all right, but we’ll see how he is on game day,” Shanahan told reporters.
Shanahan provided some final updates before the ‘Niners boarded for Wisconsin.
How the Rookie Has Grown
The third rounder out of Michigan has gone from someone buried on the depth chart to one who managed to crack the starting lineup toward the end of the regular season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas’ snap counts on defense went from a combined 22 plays before Week 13 to the 6-foot, 183-pound cornerback now receiving between 56 to 72 defensive snaps since Week 14.
And what has the former Wolverine done on the field? Limit the catches and yardage his side and, in the case of the crucial Week 18 contest in Inglewood with a playoff berth on the line, snatched this from the Los Angeles Rams:
In his first two games of extension action against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Atlanta Falcons, Thomas surrendered his most yardage in both contests with 81 and 95 yards, respectively. Thomas also surrendered one touchdown in both games — the Bengals one coming late in the fourth quarter and the Falcons score during this second quarter play.
But since then, Thomas hasn’t allowed more than 47 receiving yards his side per PFF. He’s delivered his most stellar moments in the last two 49er games.
Alongside the interception on a pass intended for Odell Beckham Jr., Thomas didn’t allow OBJ to catch a single football his alley on two targets.
Thomas then saw his most action against the Dallas Cowboys to open the NFL Wildcard playoffs — 72 plays in total. And against the Cowboys Thomas drew four different receivers: Cedrick Wilson, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and tight end Dalton Schultz.
Schultz caught a 14-yarder on Thomas. But as for the Cowboys’ dynamic trio of wideouts? Only Lamb caught a pass on Thomas…his only catch of the game which led to a vocal Troy Aikman complaining about Lamb’s usage in the 49ers’ road win. Former NFL cornerback Eric Crocker, who now does the “Locked on 49ers” podcast for Frontline Sports Media, pointed out how 83% of Thomas’ coverages involved him playing in zone and still holding his own.
Who Could Takeover if Thomas Isn’t Good to Go?
The most likely case is that the 49ers go back to the older available veterans: Dontae Johnson or Josh Norman.
Johnson and Norman received a combined eight coverage plays against Dallas — with Johnson dropping back into coverage the most on seven plays. Johnson, though, got his action as a free safety in Arlington.
If Thomas does play, it continues his impressive journey as someone who was once buried on the depth chart to someone being counted on to slow down the Packers’ air assault and continue the 49ers’ season.
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