The recent acquisition of Eric Wright from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers surely raised some eyebrows. Up until that point, Carlos Rogers and Perrish Cox were pretty much the only options when it came to covering slot receivers. The San Francisco 49ers’ cornerback group can easily be viewed as a crowded situation now.
The group now consists of Rogers, Cox, Wright, Chris Culliver, Nnamdi Asogmuha, Tarell Brown, Tremaine Brock along with rookies Marcus Cooper and Darryl Morris. It will be interesting seeing how this competition plays out. There are some pretty good players at the top of the list.
Last year, the 49ers allowed 200.2 yards passing per game. That was good enough for fourth in the NFL during the regular season. The number did jump to 306 yards per game in the playoffs. The total was second to last among all playoff teams. This was the reason why some 49er fans were calling out for an overhaul of the secondary. They didn’t realize that the pass rush had taken a hit by way of injuries to Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks.
The 49ers’ front office seemed to have slightly obliged by signing Asogmuha and trading for Wright. Now that these players are in the mix, who will be the starters at cornerback?
There shouldn’t be any changes to the starting cast when it comes to the corners. Rogers should still be the starter. He remains the best option for the 49ers when they play man defense against smaller receivers. Take a look at what he did against Wes Welker when they played the New England Patriots. Some have said that trading for Wright could lead to the release of Rogers. That is a move that is surely not going to happen. This may be his last year on the 49ers because he has a cap number of $8 million and there are some pretty big deals that are left to be done. (Kaepernick, Aldon Smith, Iupati, Crabtree)
The other starter at corner should still be Tarell Brown. He was pretty much the most consistent corner on the team throughout the year. Brown proved himself to be a pretty solid defender against the deep ball last year. His play in the post season was solid as well. He played especially well against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. Brown will be looking to have an even better season in 2013 as he is set to be an unrestricted free agent after completing a five year $8 million deal in 2009.
The focus on passing the ball and using three receiver sets has caused defenses to now have three starting corners. The nickel package is not a base defense but it is one that teams are going to much more frequently. For that reason, whenever you talk about starting corners for the 49ers, you have to include Chris Culliver.
Culliver is the most promising of all 49er corners. He is entering his third year. Culliver comes into the game when the 49ers go to their nickel package. Rogers bumps inside to cover the slot and Culliver plays outside. He is the best option for going against big, physical receivers like James Jones of the Packers. He is also very tough against the run which allows the 49ers’ to still be able to be defend their opponent’s attempts to run through their nickel defense.
Wright and Asogmuha are both on very inexpensive deals that will not dictate them getting playing time. They can be retained on the roster with little effect on the salary cap. Both are good options to fill in for the starters. One of them will be on the roster next year when some cap decisions will need to be made. The likely one to stay is Eric Wright as he is a player with a similar skill set to Rogers.
Tremaine Brock and Perrish Cox both bring value by way of special teams. Neither of them are likely to be named the starters. Brock was a key special teams contributor over the last two years. Cox is coming off of his first full year after not being in the league in 2011. He is a good option on punt returns and is still a good option as a nickel or even dime player.
There is a log jam at the corner position. The starters should remain the same as last year. The front office did make a couple of low cost moves to sure up the secondary. They also looked to address the pass rush by drafting Tank Carradine and Corey Lemonier. The pass defense will be a strong part of their high defensive rating again in 2013.