Thus far we've had a pair of easy grades in David Akers and NaVorro Bowman, and then a tough but not necessarily critical grading of Alex Boone. Akers and Bowman had monster years, while Boone basically filled the roll that was asked of him on a daily basis.
Now we move back to another depth player with cornerback Tramaine Brock. It really was a tale of two seasons for Brock and the 49ers nickel back position. Brock earned the job coming out of training camp and got off to a flashy start with interceptions in each of the 49ers first two games. Of course, against the Cowboys in week two, the secondary had plenty of struggles late when Tony Romo was on the field (as opposed to Jon Kitna).
As the first quarter of the season wore on, Shawntae Spencer worked his way back into the rotation. Shortly thereafter, Brock broke his right hand and was sidelined long enough where by the time he returned, Chris Culliver appeared to be firmly entrenched in the nickel back role. Brock saw limited action and was a healthy scratch in some games as well. He returned for the playoffs, and was the defender on Mario Manningham when the Giants receiver caught a go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game.
|2011 - Tramaine Brock||11||0||0||2||18||0||5||0||5|
Tramaine Brock is an exclusive rights free agent this offseason. That means that he is a free agent only in the sense that he does not have a contract for 2012. However, he can only negotiate with the 49ers for a new contract. I would imagine he will get a bump in pay, but the 49ers have the leverage in this situation.
Brock's role in 2012 will depend in part on the 49ers plans with regards to Carlos Rogers. Whether or not Rogers returns in 2012, Brock will battle Chris Culliver, Curtis Holcomb and possibly Cory Nelms (if he does't move to safety as some speculation indicates is possible) for playing time in the 49ers secondary. Culliver would seem to be locked in at the nickel back (if Rogers returns) or as the number two cornerback (if Rogers leaves).
It is entirely possible Brock could sufficiently impress and/or Culliver or Brown take a step backward in training camp. For now he would seem to be sitting a notch back on the depth chart. It will make for an interesting battle at the cornerback position no matter what happens with Carlos Rogers. The 49ers have a lot of young talent that will be battling for playing time in their secondary. Brock showed some signs of improvement in 2011, but he faces a stiff challenge for more playing time in 2012.