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Cox Competing at Nickel, Outside

Posted Aug 20, 2013

Perrish Cox has increased his versatility on the defense in the wake of Chris Culliver's injury.

The 49ers defense has many leaders: Justin Smith takes on extra offensive lineman for D-Line teammates, Patrick Willis huddles his linebackers, Donte Whitner directs the safeties … and Carlos Rogers literally speaks for cornerbacks.

“The type of defense we play, the nickel sets it up,” reserve cornerback Perrish Cox said of Rogers’ role in San Francisco’s 3-4 alignment. “He makes all the calls.”

Cox, in his second year with the team, has a unique appreciation for the added duties of the nickel spot. This is because he has assumed Rogers’ responsibilities.

“From backing me up last year, he understands a lot more and understands the defense more,” Rogers said. “He’s improving and getting better and better each year he’s here.”

“Once you play nickel, you understand the corner position better.”

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In the time since Chris Culliver reportedly suffered a season-ending ACL tear on Aug. 1, Cox has seen more time on at outside cornerback, where he played in his 2010 season with the Denver Broncos.

Cox’s versatility, however, undoubtedly helps his case for a roster spot.

Rogers and Tarell Brown are likely to be joined in the starting lineup by one of a group that includes Nnamdi Asomugha, Tramaine Brock and Cox.  (Rookies Marcus Cooper and Darryl Morris as well as veteran free-agent addition Eric Wright, who has yet to join the team, are seemingly competing for however many spaces remain.)

“Me playing nickel all of last year, it helps me out, knowing the whole defense,” Cox confirmed. “I know where the linebackers are going to be. I know where the blitz is coming from. I know everybody’s position. So when I move back out to corner, it makes things easier for me.”

While Asomugha seems to be “arrow up” this past week – to borrow a Jim Harbaugh-ism – Cox is in the mix to start games for the 49ers this season. Of course, if that’s to happen, he’ll likely be back on the outside with Rogers resuming his leading role and tracking down speedy slot receivers.

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While he would prefer to be playing with San Francisco's first unit, Cox has acquitted himself well mostly with the second-team defense through two preseason games.

“We take much pride in (our play),” he said. “When (the first unit is) off the field, we don’t want no layoff. We don’t want (people) to say the first team went off and we couldn’t pick up the slack. We don’t want to hear anything like that. This has always been a good defense, and we want to go in and do our thing. If not, better than the first. We have our own goals set.”

Recording a sack wasn’t Cox’s personal objective last Friday in Kansas City, but he recorded a pair on Chiefs quarterbacks. Though he also has designs on returning punts and kickoffs, this was clearly his highlight of the exhibition season to date.

“It was my first game ever having a sack," he said. "Ever. Going back forever. These were my first two career sacks.”