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Defensive Depth Encourages 49ers

Posted Aug 19, 2013

Vic Fangio discussed the quality competitions taking place across the defense and the tough decisions to be made when whittling a 90-man roster down to 53 players.


The 49ers will have a number of tough decisions when whittling a 90-man roster down to 53 players.

Many of the challenging choices will take place on the defensive side of the ball.

“We’ve had some guys go in there and play pretty good these first two preseason games,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said on Monday. “We haven’t been stretched a whole lot these first two preseason games. In other words, teams haven’t been attacking us down the field a whole lot. So, sometimes the preseason games can be a little misleading.”
 
Even if San Francisco hasn’t been challenged vertically, the team has not surrendered a defensive touchdown in games against the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.

HIGHLIGHTS: 49ERS VS. CHIEFS

Fangio noted the quality competitions taking place across the defense as reasons for the 49ers consistent play to start the preseason.

Players like Tony Jerod-Eddie, Demarcus Dobbs, Corey Lemonier, Cam Johnson, Dan Skuta, Parys Haralson, Michael Wilhoite, Nate Stupar, Nick Moody, Nnamdi Asomugha and Eric Reid were highlighted by the respected coordinator.

In other words, the 49ers have been impressed with the players pushing for playing time on the second-team defense. The quality backups will make things especially difficult when the 49ers trim the roster from 90 to 75 on Aug. 27 and then to 53 on Aug. 31 with an eight-man practice squad.

Cornerbacks, in particular, figure to be one of the most competitive position groups on defense.

RELATED: REID EAGER TO FACE ADRIAN PETERSON

“At corner we’ll traditionally keep five, potentially keep six,” Fangio said when explaining how he’ll determine which cornerbacks to keep. “I think we’ve got the three guys that have started – I’m talking about in nickel – and then we’ve had Nnamdi playing and (Tramaine) Brock playing and Perrish Cox has done a good job, too.

Fangio likes the depth of his eight cornerbacks on the roster, but sounded unsure about the chances of Eric Wright making an early impact.

When asked about Wright’s chances of joining the cornerback position battle, Fangio was tepid in his response.

“I have no idea,” the coordinator said. “I haven’t heard. You guys know as much about that as I do to be honest with you.”

The free agent addition remains on the Active/Non-Football Injury List and has not officially reported to the team after signing a one-year contract on Aug. 8.

Even so, Fangio has liked the performances of his cornerbacks to date.

“We’ve got six guys there and we have the two young guys that are coming; the draft pick and the free agent,” Fangio said. “We’ve got eight guys there that are competing and we’ll be able to, I think, find a good five or six guys out of that group.”
 
Fangio also noted that the players who can impact the team in 2013 will have the edge over players with future potential.

“I think the priority is 2013, but you always have an eye for the future,” Fangio said. “So, if it’s close, then maybe the future takes over. If it’s not close, we’ve got a season to play here.”

Asomugha, a player signed to contribute in 2013, has steadily improved his play in his first offseason with the 49ers.

Fangio noted that Asomugha, the 11-year veteran who is signed to a one-year contract with the team, had solid coverage on deep passes in San Francisco’s preseason win over Kansas City.

RELATED: NNAMDI ASOMUGHA SOLID AT CB

Ironically, it happened to be against a future teammate, Jon Baldwin.

Asomugha continues to be in competition with Brock for the third cornerback role on the roster, a coveted spot in the 49ers nickel defense

When asked if Brock had solidified his chances of lining up as the No. 3 corner, Fangio stressed that the battle remains alive and well.

“Him and Nnamdi right now are those two guys,” Fangio said.

But is there a leader between the two at this point?
 
“I think there’s starting to become,” Fangio said, “but we’ll see.”
 
Asomugha’s emergence has been key this offseason with Chris Culliver suffering a reported torn ACL on his left knee.

As a whole, the 49ers wanted to boost defensive depth after reaching the Super Bowl in 2012.

Fangio believes the competitions will only help the 49ers identify the best players to line up against the Green Bay Packers to open the season on Sept. 8.

“The whole goal of training camp and preseason games, which preseason games are part of training camp, is number one, to pick the right 53 players for your team and to prepare your team for the regular season,” Fangio said.

“The more we get to play those guys, the more it helps us pick the right 53 for the team and the more depth we can develop will help us play a 16-game schedule because invariably a lot of them will get called upon. It’s been good up to this point.”