Opponents will work on Webster weekly

Is Jason Webster the weak link of the 49ers defense? The Denver Broncos surely will be checking that out for themselves on Sunday, just like the New York Giants did before them. And just like every San Francisco opponent will do in the future unless Webster starts showing he can shut down receivers.

Webster saw a lot of passes come his way last week against the Giants. He saw a lot of them completed, too. The Giants didn't just pick on Webster; they singled him out. New York came after Webster the entire evening, and the 5-foot-10 cornerback often fell short in match-ups with taller receivers. Webster called it "one of the toughest" games of his NFL career.

"I made a handful of mistakes and technique errors, errors with my eyes," said Webster, now in his third year as a starter. "I look at it as, ‘What good is a mistake if you don't correct it?' I analyzed it. I learned from it. I'm ready for Denver."

The Broncos will be ready for Webster with starting receivers Ed McCaffrey (6-foot-5), Rod Smith (6-foot) and rookie Ashlie Lelie (6-3). New York's Amani Toomer (6-3) had game-high totals of nine receptions for 134 yards last week, much of that damage coming against Webster.

Webster held his own as a rookie in 2000 once he took over in the starting lineup for Monty Montgomery, but with left cornerback Ahmed Plummer's development into a Pro Bowl alternate last season, opponents began making Webster a top target for their passing games as the season developed. That has carried over to this season.

"Any good offensive coordinator, which all the coordinators in this league are, are going to pick out a guy that they want to go after on that day," Niners defensive coordinator Jim Mora said. "Jason realizes more than anybody that he struggled (against the Giants). The thing that we know about Jason is he is resilient, he's tough and competitive. It's not going to get to him."

Niners coach Steve Mariucci said, "Jason Webster will be fine. I don't have any concerns." But the Niners will be watching closely to see how he holds up now that other teams are finding more than just occasional success against him.

Rookie Mike Rumph is waiting in the wings, and while he is bigger, stronger and more physical, he's not ready to start on the edge in the NFL yet. But Rumph does play on the edge in nickel coverage packages, moving Webster inside on the slot receiver, where he also struggled against the Giants.

"He's done that enough that it wasn't a problem," Mora said. "He's good in there. He just got beat to his leverage a couple of times. He had a tough game. People have tough games. When everyone else around you has a really good game, and you're having a tough game, it makes it look even worse. We love Jason. He's a good player."

Certainly, Webster will be getting plenty of chances to prove it this season. And count on this: If Webster is indeed good, so will be San Francisco's defense. Those are two things that will go hand-in-hand, or link-in-link, for that matter.


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