Shanahan explains 49ers' surprising decision to release Dennard

Shanahan explains 49ers’ surprising decision to release Dennard

When the 49ers released Darqueze Dennard on Monday, it was a somewhat shocking move, as the veteran corner had lined up with the first team on nickel back.

After the team’s joint training in Minnesota with the Vikings on Wednesday, coach Kyle Shanahan provided some clarity about what was in the decision with a straight answer.

“We didn’t think he would deserve that spot,” Shanahan told reporters. “Whether he’s there or not, nobody’s really like that, except for the depth maps we have to give you for the preseason.

“So we wanted to give him chances, as a vet and with younger guys coming in, but we got to see enough where we thought the younger guys would have a chance, so we want to give them some reps.”

Shanahan noted that Dennard was “amazing” last season when he joined the 49ers for their do-or-die Week 18 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Dennard was instrumental in helping San Francisco to a playoff spot.

But after Sam Womack’s dazzling preseason debut against the Green Bay Packers on Friday, the rookie earned Shanahan’s confidence in the future.

“… [Dennard] was a good player for us this off-season,” Shanahan said on Wednesday. “And we’ll see how these guys do and if it doesn’t work out, hopefully someday [he] can come back.”

Womack had two interceptions in the 49ers’ 28-21 win over the Packers and is now the team’s starter with nickel back. K’Waun Williams previously held the position and signed it with the Denver Broncos offseason.

‘Yes, Womack. I think everyone saw him during the match and he did a really good job,” said Shanahan. “He’s done a good job in practice too. We have some certainties that we can mix there as well, so there’s still some competition, but yeah, we’re happy with how he’s been so far.”

Safety Dontae Johnson and Tarvarius Moore both saw time in the slot against Green Bay, and unwritten free agent Qwuantrezz Knight, who is behind Womack on the nickel depth chart, also performed well in the second half of the game.

RELATED: Tyreek hypes up 49ers rookie Womack after dazzling debut

With a slew of experienced defenders around and proven abilities, San Francisco clearly expects Womack to hold its own as a rookie in the secondary 49ers after Dennard’s release.

Along with Dennard, the 49ers also cut the defensive tackle of Robert Nkemdiche, fullback Josh Hokit, wide receiver KeeSean Johnson and defensive lineman Tomasi Laulile to reach the 85-man limit before Tuesday’s deadline.

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