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Camp Preview: Cornerbacks

Posted Jul 12, 2012



The San Francisco 49ers are set for training camp to begin at the end of the month. But before the team can defend its NFC West division crown this upcoming season, let’s take a look at the depth of each position group on the roster as they prepare for camp. Cornerbacks are up next.

OVERVIEW

Playing behind a fiercely competitive defensive front seven, the 49ers secondary held up their end of the bargain in 2011. Opposing offenses seldom had anywhere to run against San Francisco. Airing it out against the 49ers last season wasn’t an easy task either. Free agent addition Carlos Rogers recorded a career-high six interceptions, was named to his first ever Pro Bowl and was later named the NFL’s No. 69 overall player by his peers.  Rogers re-signed with the 49ers for four more seasons early in free agency, giving the 49ers a stable of talented defensive backs to play behind the likes of Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Justin Smith and company. Rogers, however, wasn’t the only cornerback producing career-best numbers for San Francisco. The same could be said for fellow starter Tarell Brown, who came up with four interceptions in 2011, all of which came in the team’s last four regular season contests. Brown continued his confident play into the playoffs where he added two pass breakups and a remarkable over-the-shoulder interception in a postseason victory over the New Orleans Saints. Brown has vowed to make next year’s Pro Bowl and appears to be focused on making that goal a reality this coming season. After Rogers and Brown, the 49ers have several youthful, yet experienced cornerbacks that are capable of lining up outside on perimeter threats, or against slot receivers in nickel coverage. The group is led by second-year player Chris Culliver, who saw lots of playing time in the third cornerback role last season. This time around, however, there’s likely competition for the nickel role with fellow cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox, a free agent addition who was out of football in 2011. Because the defense returns all 11 starters from last season and has added reinforcements through the draft and free agency, the defensive backs expect to improve upon last year’s stellar play. In order to get ready for the volume of passes they’ll face in training camp, the group continued to work on ball skills throughout the offseason and even mixed in with offensive players for gauntlet drills.

DEPTH

RETURNERS: Carlos Rogers (eighth season, second in San Francisco), Tarell Brown (sixth season), Tramaine Brock (third season), Chris Culliver (second season), Curtis Holcomb (second season) and Cory Nelms (first season, 2011 practice squad member). NEWCOMERS: Perrish Cox (second season, first in San Francisco), Anthony Mosley (undrafted, Kentucky), and Deante Purvis (undrafted, UNLV).

The 49ers likely have a great feel for what they have in Rogers, Brown, Culliver and Brock. The team has used the offseason to gauge the skills of Cox and the young cornerbacks on the roster. Cox quickly made an impression. Curtis Holcomb missed all of his rookie season after last year’s seventh-round selection was placed on Injured Reserve prior to training camp with a season-ending Achilles injury. Cory Nelms spent 2011 on the practice squad where he was exposed to the teachings of secondary coach Ed Donatell and his assistant Greg Jackson. Nelms, last season’s Thomas Herrion Award winner, has worked on offense, defense and special teams this offseason with the hopes of proving he can be a three-way player for the club. 

STANDOUT STAT

26

The 49ers allowed just 26 points off of turnovers, which ranks t-2nd in the NFL since 1995 when the statistic was first tracked.

QUOTABLE

“He’s doing well. We like Perrish. We’ve got him playing nickel and corner, which is two different positions. There’s no carry over from one to the other, from an assignment and technique standpoint. And he’s done well learning both those positions and we’re very happy to have him. He’s given us added depth and he’s going to push for added playing time if he continues the work that he’s showing so far.”

-Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on the progress of free agent addition Perrish Cox.