Kyle Shanahan explains 49ers' surprise Darqueze Dennard release decision

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Shanahan explains 49ers' surprise decision to release Dennard originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

When the 49ers released Darqueze Dennard on Monday, it was somewhat of a shocking move, given the veteran corner had been lining up with the first team at nickel back.

Following the team’s joint practice in Minnesota with the Vikings on Wednesday, coach Kyle Shanahan provided some clarity on what went into the decision with a straightforward answer.

“We didn't think he was going to earn that spot,” Shanahan told reporters. “Whether he is out there with the ones or not, no one really is slotted that way, except for the depth charts we have to give you guys before preseason.

“So we wanted to give him opportunities, being the vet and with younger guys coming in, but we got to see enough where we felt the younger guys were going to have a chance, so we want to give them some reps.”

Shanahan noted Dennard was “awesome” last season when he joined the 49ers for their do-or-die Week 18 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Dennard played a pivotal role in helping San Francisco clinch a playoff spot.

But after corner Sam Womack’s dazzling preseason debut against the Green Bay Packers on Friday, the rookie earned Shanahan’s vote of confidence moving forward.

“... [Dennard] was a good player for us this offseason,” Shanahan said 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 now figures to be the team’s starter at nickel back. K’Waun Williams previously held the position and signed with the Denver Broncos this offseason.

“Yeah, Womack. I think everyone saw him during the game and he did a real good job,” Shanahan said. “He’s done a decent job in practice, too. We have some safeties we can mix there also, so there’s still some competition. But yeah, we’ve been happy with how he’s been so far.”

Safeties Dontae Johnson and Tarvarius Moore both saw time in the slot against Green Bay, and undrafted free agent Qwuantrezz Knight, who’s listed behind Womack on the depth chart at nickel, also performed well in the game’s second half.

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

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

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

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