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Chris Cook, Chris Culliver Highlight 49ers CB Battle

Posted Jul 21, 2014

The 49ers will have two cornerback questions to answer in training camp. Who starts with Tramaine Brock? Who gets the nod at nickel?


Our training camp positional previews continue with a look at the team’s cornerbacks.

LEADING OFF

- Tramaine Brock is the leader of the group. He might not be the most vocal member of the defense, but he’s not being asked to do that. Not when the 49ers have several veteran standouts among their front seven. Brock showed up weeks before the team’s offseason training program kicked off and had perfect attendance throughout the nine weeks of lifting, conditioning and practice sessions. Brock has set big goals. He said he hopes to become a top-flight cover corner, and he’s doing what is necessary to accomplish this.

- A pair of players with the same first initials could be in line to start Week 1. Chris Culliver and Chris Cook are those names. Culliver tore his ACL last training camp during a punt cover drill. He hasn’t been involved in offseason workouts, but he wasn’t placed on the Active/Non-Football List like some of his rehabbing teammates, Marcus Lattimore and Ian Williams. Cook, a free-agent addition on a one-year contract, took all the first-team reps this offseason and could join Brock with the first-team defense when camp begins.

- Don’t sleep on rookies Jimmie Ward, Dontae Johnson and Kenneth Acker. Ward, the 30th overall pick in the NFL Draft's first round, will be in the mix for the team’s nickel corner role. The fourth and fifth-round picks, meanwhile, could climb the perimeter cornerback depth chart with impressive camp outings. Both defenders have size on their side. Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound corner was recruited by Jim Harbaugh to Stanford, but he chose to play at North Carolina State. The “Harbaugh recruited me out of high school” thing worked out pretty well for Eric Reid last season. Not to be forgotten, Acker, a 6-foot, 190-pound cornerback competed well against first-round draft pick Mike Evans last season. Both rookies will look to show their competitiveness in one-on-one drills against San Francisco’s deep wideout group.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Darryl Morris.

The second-year cornerback was undrafted in ’13 out of Texas State. Even so, Morris followed Harbaugh’s “work, don’t worry” mantra and made his way on to the 53-man roster last season. Morris contributed immediately on special teams and used his speed to be a disruptive force on kick and punt cover teams.

Morris could add more to his plate. Perhaps in the form of being the team’s nickel cornerback. The more the 49ers practiced in the offseason, the more we saw Morris line up as San Francisco’s third cornerback. Morris will compete with veteran Perrish Cox and Ward, the rookie, to be the 12th man of the defense. The 49ers look at the nickel spot as a starting role. That means the competition will be very critical to the team’s overall success.

EXTRA POINTS

Brock led the 49ers with five interceptions last season. He started just seven games… Cook has never recorded an interception in his four-year NFL career. The former Minnesota Vikings second-round draft pick, however, has the most starts (29) of any cornerback on the current roster…Ward has been cleared to practice in training camp. The Northern Illinois product had a procedure on a broken bone in his right foot back in March and was held out of OTAs and minicamps. Ward ran his 40-yard dash at his pro day with the injury. General manager Trent Baalke was impressed with Ward’s willingness to compete… San Francisco has seven cornerbacks on the roster compared to 10 wideouts.