49ers Roster, 90-in-90 breakdowns: Chris Culliver

Ezra Shaw

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today we focus on Chris Culliver.

Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the San Francisco 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.

The 49ers didn't completely revamp their cornerback depth chart this offseason, but they did pick up Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency and drafted Marcus Cooper in the seventh round. Those additions likely won't dent Chris Culliver's playing time too much, so expect to see him on the field often.

2012 was, all in all, a good year for Culliver, notching 15 passes defended. We saw that he can be a highly effective man corner who has the ability to shut receivers down. We also witnessed mental gaffes by Culliver, leading to big plays and penalties. The year ended in a Super Bowl loss, and Culliver's worst game of the year. Huge plays were given up on his end, putting the rest of the 49ers defense in a tough spot to limit the damage Baltimore was trying to inflict. The good news, Culliver is just 24 and I expect more stellar play and less head-scratching performances.

What to expect in 2013

The Super Bowl loss was hard on everyone, from the front office to the fans at home, but I don't think it hit many people harder than Culliver. I believe his less-than-stellar Super Bowl performance, and the comments for which he got in trouble, will fuel his fire this season, knowing he has something to prove to silence critics. Culliver has flashed shutdown potential at cornerback, and will 2013 be the season he becomes Pro Bowl caliber? It's possible.

Nnamdi Asomugha, Carlos Rogers, and Tarell Brown are doubtful to return in 2014, so this is the year Culliver needs to show he can be the man at corner for the 49ers. As far as 2013 goes, it will be interesting to see where Cully lands on the depth chart. Will he be the slot corner? Or will that be Nnamdi or Carlos? Competition will ensue when training camp comes in a couple weeks.

Will he progress or regress?

Last season Culliver made improvements from year one to year two of his career, and that trend will continue into year number three. Culliver has possessed great speed, solid tackling, and stellar man coverage at times, all three attributes of a good cornerback. The big plays given up by him are few to the plays we don't even notice when the receiver isn't open with Culliver covering them tight. With a little more focus and maturity, expect Culliver to have a stand-out kind of season. The Super Bowl performance will not define him, but it will drive him to become a better player, and to not let those types of gaffes that happened, happen again.

Odds of making the roster

Cully will be a Niner this season and for years to come; he has the potential to become a fixture at cornerback for the 49ers. Let's just hope he doesn't have any more verbal gaffes or mental mistakes on the field, because he has a lot of potential. Chris Culliver's future is bright, as long as he continues to think before he speaks, and continues to progress on the football field.

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