One of the big improvements on this year's San Francisco 49ers team is the play of safety Donte Whitner. Although Whitner was named to the Pro Bowl in 2012, an argument could be made that he is having the best season of his 49ers tenure this year.
The big difference is an improvement in his pass coverage. Whitner is benefiting from having Eric Reid back deep with him, but Whitner made a serious effort to improve his coverage. Eric Branch put together a very informative article about how Whitner improved himself this offseason. Whitner received very candid feedback from secondary coach Ed Donatell and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio:
"In any phase of life, any type of job that you have, if someone tells you that you suck at part of it, it's really going to pierce you," Whitner said. "And that's basically what they told me. Vic Fangio and coach Donatell basically said, 'This is part of your game that you suck at.' ... So, it's humbling. It did sting for a couple weeks."
Whitner mentioned how he had seen this kind of criticism on Twitter, but seeing it from his coaches actually hit home. And so, he spent the offseason getting in better shape, and then got a chance to defend Vernon Davis throughout training camp. Although Davis is a tight end, he has the ability to play like a big wide receiver. It gave Whitner plenty of opportunities to improve in coverage. You can read a full interview transcript HERE.
Naturally, this improvement raises questions about his contract status. Whitner is a free agent at the end of the season, and he said there was no news on that front. The 49ers have plenty of issues to sort through on the contract front. Whitner has proven he deserves a contract, but the question will come down to what kind of money will be involved. I imagine the 49ers will wait until free agency starts and let the market set itself. Whitner is only 28-years old, so I suspect he will see plenty of solid offers. My guess is he will be priced out of the 49ers budget.
The video up above is a great interview Whitner did with FOX Sports. He discusses his childhood and how it made him the big hitter he is. The story of getting hit by a car and the little red wagon is heavy stuff. Give it a watch.
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