The 49ers’ most competitive battles for playing time on defense

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The 49ers don’t begin training camp for over a month but have a number of questions to think about in the meantime.

Training camp is setting up to be one of the most competitive in recent seasons given all the roster turnover by first-time coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. Very few roles are established and jobs could be won on the practice field and during the four preseason games in August.

Here, we’ll look at some the most competitive and important battles coming down the pike on defense…

No. 2 corner

(Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)

All signs are pointing to second-year player Rashard Robinson ascending to the top cornerback role after impressing as a rookie. But there remains a void on the other side of the field.

The 49ers lost their two starters from last season with Jimmie Ward converting to free safety in the club’s new single-high blueprint. Tramaine Brock was released in the spring following a domestic violence-related arrest.

Four-year veterans Dontae Johnson and Keith Reaser have been competing with recent third-round pick Ahkello Witherspoon (6-3, 190) for chances to start. Witherspoon has the advantage of being a highly-drafted player by the new regime, but remains raw with his fundamentals.

Reaser (6-0, 190) is the smallest and fastest of that group while Johnson (6-2, 200) is looking to garner his first significant playing since his rookie season when Brock missed most of the year with a toe injury. Will Redmond could also sneak into the conversation after missing 2016 recovering from an ACL tear.

Niners Wire