Rising 49ers Defender Faces Huge Test vs. Pro Bowler

49ers cornerbacks


K’Waun Williams (left) and Emmanuel Moseley tag team on the tackle of Darnell Mooney of the Chicago Bears during the 49ers’ Halloween road win.

The last time Emmanuel Moseley of the San Francisco 49ers allowed a touchdown his side: Week 9 of the 2020 season against the Green Bay Packers on November 5, 2020 — which was the first score of the game.

The 25-year-old defender has since gone less than 390 days without surrendering a touchdown his side. And after this posted stat from CBS Sports, Moseley went on to be targeted twice by Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars…and still no one crossed the goal line against the cornerback.

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Moseley has faced quite the gauntlet: All-Pro Davante Adams of Green Bay, 1,000-yard wideout Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams, the Seattle Seahawk Pro Bowl duo of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and All-Pro De’Andre Hopkins of Arizona. None scored going against the 5-foot-11, 184-pounder who once went undrafted out of the University of Tennessee.

Moseley is putting together a career year that’s turned him into the 49ers’ top shutdown cornerback. But now looming this Sunday at Levi’s Stadium is one of his biggest tests yet. And he’s a 2020 Pro Bowl wide receiver who has dominated cornerbacks one-on-one, boasting the highest grade against man coverage this season according to Pro Football Focus: Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings.

Analyst Calls Matchup One of the Biggest for Sunday

This 49ers writer isn’t the only one who thinks Moseley is in for a huge test.

Joe Tansey of Bleacher Report on Wednesday, November 24 revealed the “Biggest Matchups” of the battle between 5-5 teams searching for a wildcard playoff berth. Here’s what Tansey wrote in his breakdown of the forthcoming clash:

“Emmanuel Moseley faces one of his toughest matchups of the season against Justin Jefferson. Moseley has been up to the task all season for the 49ers and has allowed a 56.3 completion percentage on targets against him.

Prior to Week 11, the 25-year-old ranked second behind Tre’Davious White of the Buffalo Bills in most targets without allowing a touchdown, per NFL on CBS. Moseley must contain the deep-play threat Jefferson poses to force Minnesota to find different ways to beat the San Francisco defense.

Jefferson is 56 yards away from breaking the 1,000-yard threshold for the second straight season, and he leads the Vikings with six receiving touchdowns. Moseley needs to put clamps on him in coverage to prevent the Minnesota offense from busting loose on a few momentum-gaining big plays.”

If anyone watches the Vikings closely each week, Jefferson is two things for the purple and gold: The one they want to give the ball too, and the one they turn to give the offense its swagger.

As noted by PFF, Jefferson has walloped cornerbacks who try to go man on him, as seen here versus the Packers this past Sunday:

And he’s their go-to deep threat:

“Mr. Griddy” for the Vikings went on to put together this kind of day in the emotional win over the division rival Packers:

Additionally, Jefferson caught seven of his eight passes when facing a Packers cornerback per PFF.

This season, Jefferson has four 100-yard games and has scored six touchdowns. Jefferson has caught 7-9 passes in half of the Vikings’ games this season.

Team Reporter Acknowledges Jefferson’s Impact

One other man has seen Jefferson’s impact firsthand: Vikings team reporter Eric Smith.

Here’s what Smith told 49ers reporter Kelana Martin in the November 24 edition of “Four Downs” on the 49er team website:

“Simply put, it appears the Vikings offense is at its best when Jefferson is getting the ball. There have been five games this season where he has been targeted double-digit times, and the Vikings are 4-1 in those contests. (The only loss was by one point to Arizona on a last-second missed field goal).

Jefferson proved he was legit in 2020 with a Super Bowl-era rookie record of 1,400 receiving yards. But he’s turned into an absolute superstar in his second season and continues to put the league on notice.”

Honestly, a WR of Jefferson’s caliber is going to get his catches. He’ll find a way to beat Moseley when covered by him. The biggest key? Keep Jefferson from scoring. If Moseley adds him to his growing list of wideouts he’s kept away from the end zone, the chances of leapfrogging the Vikings in the NFC wildcard race will look immensely great for the 49ers as Moseley neutralizes their top option for quick six points.

It’ll also mean that it’ll be time to add Moseley’s name to Pro Bowl listings.

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