Do the 49ers Need to Improve Their Secondary?


Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers (22) and strong safety Donte Whitner (31) break up a pass to Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) in the first quarter in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of questions arise after a team loses a championship game, and one of the biggest questions facing the San Francisco 49ers is, does the secondary need an overhaul?

Joe Flacco took advantage of huge holes in coverage by the 49ers’ secondary Sunday night in Super Bowl 47. Blown mid-field coverages accounted for several third down conversions, and a touchdown, while deep coverage missteps allowed big completions down field.

For years San Francisco’s secondary has struggled to live up the level of the rest of the defense, regularly ending up in the bottom half of the league in pass defense.

In 2011 however, the secondary stepped up and made huge plays that not only was up to the standards of the rest of their stout defense, but one of the strengths of that defense. In 2012 the 49ers’ secondary finished the season ranked 4th in the league in pass defense (200 yards per game) and 6th in opposing QB rating (78).

Even with that strong showing the 49ers corners and safeties seem to blow coverage in big situations, so the question remains, are major improvements needed? Absolutely, improvements are needed, but not necessarily outside improvements.

There have been rumors flying around that the Jets want to release CB Darrelle Revis, possibly in exchange for a second round pick and QB Alex Smith. I don’t believe that this is the improvement that the 49ers’ secondary needs.

Revis has, repeatedly in his career, been quoted as saying that he is an island, all alone in defending his side of the field. That is not the type of player that the 49ers need on their defense, which is so dependent upon the unselfish team play of its DB’s and Linebackers.

I do believe that the 49ers could benefit from improvement in the play of their secondary, but all that requires is time to mature. Tarell Brown, now that he is healthy, has improved exponentially since he took over the starting spot from Shawntae Spencer in 2011. In 16 starts last year he had four picks and 14 deflections.

Carlos Rogers rediscovered himself in San Francisco, making the Pro-Bowl, and All Pro teams in 2011. His performance in that season earned him a spot in the season’s top 100 players. His play this season was somewhat lacking however, and I think the Super Bowl loss will spark a resurgence in play from the Pro-Bowler in the 2013 season.

Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner may be the two hardest hitting safeties in the NFL. They are athletic, powerful team players who take pride in making receivers pay for daring to enter their domain. They are excellent pass defenders, but also very skilled in run defense as well. Dashon Goldson is a skilled pass rusher as well, logging 3 career sacks.

There is little question that being ranked number 4 in the league leaves room for improvement in the 49ers’ secondary, however improvement that comes from within can be just as effective as outside improvement. San Francisco’s defensive backs and safeties play together like a machine, all that is needed now is time to let their style of play together mature, and that machine will be a well oiled one.