If there's one thing I'm seriously intrigued with on the defensive side of the ball for the San Francisco 49ers this year, it's cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. There's plenty to pay attention to, from the play of rookie safety Eric Reid to Aldon Smith and whether he can keep the production cranking from last year, but I think Asomugha is the wildcard on that side of the ball.
Asomugha will be the No. 3 cornerback, playing behind Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. Asomugha comes with little fanfare, after joining the "dream team" Philadelphia Eagles and subsequently laying an egg. Now, I'm of the opinion that the Eagles used Asomugha in all of the wrong ways, and that he has a lot left to offer.
If I'm even partially right, then the 49ers are probably in good shape. Asomugha doesn't have to get near his former self to do the job that San Francisco requires of him. But there's been all this lackluster talk of Asomugha in practice and in the preseason. Coaches and beat writers don't see what all the fuss is about.
But I think Asomugha is a gamer, and I think the more he sees the field, the better he will be. He's not exactly out of shape at this point, so I don't believe stamina will be an issue. I think the more snaps he takes, the more return the 49ers will get out of him in coverage and big-play ability.
The thing that made Asomugha so good with the Oakland Raiders was that he never even gave the other team an opportunity to throw it his way. As the third corner, he'll almost certainly see passes go his way, and I think he'll reward the 49ers with a big hit or a big interception.
Or perhaps he is washed up and he'll get picked on. I don't actually know, I just have a gut feeling, backed up with a little bit of analysis and a good deal of homerism, that he will excel out of the gate. I think the Asomugha we see on Sunday will probably be what we've got all season.
Let's hope it's a good one.