Our 49ers grading moves back out to the secondary as we open the floor for discussion about Tarell Brown. Yesterday, we took a look at Ahmad Brooks and Tramaine Brock. While Brock is still trying to find his way in the NFL, Ahmad Brooks had a bit of a breakthrough season. Brooks had been known primarily as an athletic pass rusher, but he showed he could also defend against the run. While Brooks' pass coverage still leaves something to be desired, he took enough of a step forward that he could be on the field just about every down.
Tarell Brown is an interesting player to consider on this 49ers defense. While guys like Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson and Justin Smith and so forth were consistently coming up in conversations about the defense, Tarell Brown quietly went about his business and remained relatively in the shadows. He was overshadowed at cornerback by Carlos Rogers' career year and Chris Culliver making a strong transition into the NFL as a rookie.
While Brown had his slip-ups, overall I felt he did a solid job as the number two cornerback. He didn't put together a 10 season, but I think a 7 or so is not out of the realm of possibility.
Part of the difficulty in assessing Brown is trying to separate some of his struggles the first four years of his career. The 49ers gave him a shot in the starting lineup in 2009, but then he sunk back down the depth chart. The stink of struggle sort of hung there even as he moved back into the starting lineup this year.
He definitely had his share of struggles this season, but I thought he did a solid job exemplifying the need for a cornerback to have a short memory. He gave up some big plays but he also did a better than average job in keeping his man away from the ball. Pro Football Focus attempts to break down completion percentage towards a given cornerback and they rank Brown No. 31 out of 109 NFL cornerbacks. In opponent QB rating, they rank Brown No. 27. The numbers are not perfect given the lack of coaches' film, but they help provide at least a little bit of focus on Brown's season.
As we head into 2012, Tarell Brown's role will be determined in part by what happens with Carlos Rogers. Either way, Brown will likely be in the starting lineup. If Rogers leaves, it will be interesting to see how the 49ers handle their number one and number two corners. The team seems quite comfortable with Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver in those roles. Are you?