Does Shawntae Spencer deserve a little love?


In the last couple of posts, I've noticed some intense discussion about the merits and/or lack there of, of Shawntae Spencer.  First off, I'm using this picture because that hit on Jon Kitna was simply spectacular.  A perfectly run corner blitz and he just blew up Jon Kitna.

Anyways, Spencer has been much maligned in his 4 seasons with the 49ers.  Part of this is due to inconsistent performances and part of this is due to an injury bug that has grabbed hold of him.  I was checking out his statistics and I wasn't shocked to see that each season he has missed more and more games going from 16 games played his rookie year to 15 to 13 to 11 this past season.  I've always felt frustrated by these injury issues because I'm in the camp that thinks he's a solid cornerback that can make an important contribution, even if he'll never be a superstar.  When the team went out and signed Nate Clements, combined with the emergence of Walt Harris, I was psyched to see Clements Spencer excel in the 3rd cornerback role.  Instead he struggled before missing the last five games due to a quad injury, among other things.

Obviously he could be cut if the 49ers ever decide to simply move on, but in the meantime, he's locked up through 2012 in a deal that could (but I'm guessing will not) max out at $22 million.  I'm not 100% sure, but it appears to be a 5 or 6 year deal.  I've seen opinions on both sides of the fence in regards to Spencer and wanted to bring this to the front to get a little more discussion and try and get a better idea what the consensus opinion is.  Scout's Inc had the following to say in their scouting report over at the WWL:

Spencer is long and athletic. He has excellent height and a wide wingspan. He has very quick feet and quick-twitch movement skills. He is smooth and fast in coverage. He has a fluid pedal and is effective moving forward or flipping his hips. He shows very good speed once he transitions. He covers a lot of ground and has very good recovery speed. His downfield ball skills have improved. He has learned to play the ball more than the receiver, and is knocking away more passes. He is most effective in press position. His toughness and confidence have improved dramatically. He has gotten better in run support and is more willing to throw his body around. He works to maintain outside leverage on ball carriers. But Spencer isn't a power player, and he needs more experience and technique work. He is a drag-down tackler who needs to wrap up and finish more consistently. He takes some false steps in transition and particularly needs to improve his reads in off coverage.

Considering he's entering his fifth year, it becomes a question of whether he'll ever gain consistency and avoid injuries, or if he's settled into a player type and that's that.  I'd like to hope he could stay injury-free, but I used to think the same thing about A's pitcher Rich Harden and finally gave up hope.  Walt Harris is no spring chicken, so the depth at corner will be key.  I'd guess they could bring back Donald Strickland for a reasonable price, but Spencer is the guy that needs to step up at #3.  Of course, there is also Tarell Brown who many of us are hoping will be a nice little sleeper from the 2007 draft.  I would have no problem seeing a trio of Clements, Spencer and Brown anchoring the cornerback positions.  So I guess this is more a post about the state of the corners in San Francisco.  We know Nate Clements is just plain money.  What about the eventual replacements for Walt Harris?

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