Before the start of the 2013 NFL season, Tennessee Titans four-year CB Alterraun Verner was fighting to be the starting cornerback on the Titans defense. A former 2010 fourth-round pick (No. 104) out of UCLA, Verner has since solidified the starting role for the second consecutive season, and is becoming a feared ballhawk in the secondary. Through the season’s first six games, Verner has registered 22 tackles, four interceptions (one returned for touchdown), two fumble recoveries, and 13 passes defensed. The relatively unknown Verner, now finds himself in the spotlight as he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, after his week four performance against the New York Jets, where he recorded two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
However, it may be the new press-man coverage scheme that’s helped Verner shine. A scheme that critics strongly criticized coming into the season, as they felt Verner would be unable to relish, Verner has since flourished as his savvy and heady play has allowed him to play bump-and-run while jumping routes when the opportunities arise.
So with the San Francisco 49ers (4-2) coming into town, how will Verner fare against the likes of a WR Anquan Boldin? Considering teams will take Boldin out of the game with multiple double-teams, as the Niners have no life whatsoever from the No. 2 wide receiver, look for Verner to get a couple passes defensed on Sunday.
One of the smartest football players in the NFL, Verner may not be the fastest, strongest, or athletically gifted, but rather uses his high football IQ to make plays on the ball. A game-film book worm, Verner is more times than not in position to make plays on the ball, and look for that to continue against the 49ers. In addition, the Titans have the luxury of having one of the most underrated defensive coordinators in the NFL in DC Jerry Gray.
Gray, a former NFL cornerback and four-time Pro Bowl cornerback, he will use his smarts as well to shut down Boldin. Look for Gray to have FS Michael Griffin spy on Boldin, blanketing him over the top. Griffin a ballhawk himself as he has 21 career interceptions will be monitoring Boldin closely to ensure he has no impact on the game. In most situations when a cornerback plays press man coverage on Boldin, QB Colin Kaepernick can still rely on Boldin to use his elite size and strength to gain good body position and secure the catch. However it will be risky for Kaepernick to trust Boldin this week as Verner has been capitalizing on opposing quarterbacks trying to test his bump and run coverage while getting help over the top.
With QB Jake Locker still out for the Titans, they will be heavily relying on their defense to make plays and swing the momentum in their favor. So far this season Verner has stepped up as the best playmaker for the Titans, and with Kaepernick trying to find an open wide receiver, look for Verner to make life uneasy for the third-year quarterback as he tries to get his hands on the ball.
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