Lenoir's confidence continuing to rise as 49ers starter originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SANTA CLARA — As Deommodore Lenoir wraps up his second NFL season, the 49ers' defensive back is learning not just about football, but himself as a player.
“I am starting to figure out who I am as far as just being able to make plays and really have confidence in myself to make those plays,” Lenoir told NBC Sports Bay Area on Thursday.
Since cornerback Emmanuel Moseley suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 5, the Oregon product has been tasked with playing across from Charvarius "Mooney" Ward, which at times has put the opposing team’s best receiver up against Lenoir.
Lenoir knows that both good and bad plays are helping him to develop as a player, but the sophomore cornerback also feels the pressure to do his part for the 49ers' top-ranked defense. Lenoir shared that the pressure to lock down his side of the field comes from not wanting to disappoint the veterans on defense, such as Fred Warner.
“When you get a play made on you, I kind of look at Fred first because he’s the leader and the captain of the defense and I don’t want to let him down,” Lenoir said. “I’m kind of like, ‘Ok next play, I have to make a play.’ That’s how my process is. I really look at everybody, but it’s like I owe them one.”
In 16 games this season, Lenoir has racked up 72 total tackles — 48 solo, five for a loss, one interception and five pass breakups. Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans believes the young defensive back has shown marked improvement with more playing time.
“D-Mo is a young player who has stepped in for us,” Ryans said on Thursday. "I think he’s done some really good things. He’s grown a lot. He’s been steady for us out there and of course, for all of us, we can all make more plays, we can all play better and he falls in that category as well
“But I’m happy with the growth that I’ve seen from D-Mo throughout the year and he’ll continue to get better with the more reps that he gets. This is truly his first year of truly playing and being out there for us, so it’s encouraging to see where he is and where he’s headed.”
Lenoir shared that his confidence is rising as he gets more playing time. The input that he has received from both Charvarius and Jimmie Ward has been valuable as he has taken over the starting role at cornerback.
The group’s Week 17 performance, however, was not up to par. The 49ers' defense allowed 34 points and 500 yards in San Francisco's 37-34 overtime win vs. the Las Vegas Raiders -- their second-highest this season in both categories. Lenoir believes it was a good wake-up call that the group still needs to go to work, especially with the postseason in their sites.
“We felt like the game last week shouldn’t have been that close just knowing how we preach and how we pride ourselves,” Lenoir said. “This week we are going to go out there and try to reestablish why we are the No. 1 defense.