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San Francisco 49ers positional review: Cornerbacks

The San Francisco 49ers have some pretty good cornerbacks, but they need to address the position going forward.


Today, we'll continue our look at the 49ers' roster by taking a look at the cornerback position. It's been a position lacking stability and high level play for much of the last several years, but that changes in 2011 as guys like Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown played exceptionally well.

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Unfortunately, things didn't go necessarily as planned last season. The secondary was good during the regular season, but fell apart in the playoffs. It's clear the 49ers will attempt to add to the position going forward and we'll take a look at that nearer the end of this post. For now, let's take a look at how the guys on the roster played last season.

Carlos Rogers

Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2012 - Carlos Rogers 15 1 14 1 63 0 50 6 56

I think the 49ers have gotten the best they'll get out of Rogers at this point. Unfortunately, that "best" came during the 2011-12 season, when Rogers had the best season of his career and played out of his mind. He picked off passes, he shut down receivers and he kept his collapses to a minimum.

In 2012, he wasn't quite as solid. He wasn't always matched up against the opposing team's best receiver, either. The 49ers used him to his strengths, which minimized his mistakes. I'm honestly very conflicted on how Rogers performed last season.

We didn't hear his name called a lot, and that's a good thing. Personally, I'm totally fine with Rogers being a starter heading into next year.

Tarell Brown

Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2012 - Tarell Brown 15 0 0 2 17 0 50 5 55

Brown has always been a weird player for me. He's been great at times, but totally invisible others. I'm consistently struck by his ability to make insane, acrobatic plays in very short spaces against top wide receivers, and then again struck by his inability to defend a deep pass with anything approaching regularity.

That said, he was probably the better of the 49ers' starting cornerbacks a season ago. He stuck to his man and you saw him shutting down receivers more than he was giving up big plays. He's a starter, and a good one at this point and I don't think there's a whole lot more to say about him.

One negative is that he's not solid in run coverage. In fact, you almost never see him in on running plays. I don't know if that's circumstance based on coverage or what but I think we've seen way too little of his tackle form recently. It would also be nice if he could pick off more passes.

If push comes to shove, he might just be better than Rogers at this point, and he can probably prove that on the field.

Chris Culliver

Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2012 - Chris Culliver 16 0 0 2 4 0 36 7 43

I was extremely, extremely critical of Culliver after the Super Bowl. I stand by all of those criticisms. However, unlike many of the players the underperformed in that game that I believe can be replaced (Randy Moss, Donte Whitner), I don't think Culliver should go anywhere.

For where the 49ers drafted him and how we had no idea who he was, Culliver has been really good. He's been matched up against a team's top receiver pretty often, and he did win those matchups a good amount of the time. One thing we heard a lot was Culliver's stats regarding first downs and all of that and personally, I think it's overblown.

Because Culliver really struggles with the deep ball. He has the top-end speed to keep up with any receiver in the NFL, and yet ... he doesn't. It's weird. He gets lost down the sideline big time and we saw that multiple times in the Super Bowl and during the regular season.

But again, he's come a long way in a short time and his best days are probably still in front of him.

Tramaine Brock

Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2012 - Tramaine Brock 11 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1

Brock briefly impressed me a season ago, which was a breakthrough for him because I've always considered his spot on the roster tenuous. I've never thought of him as particularly good, and that was especially true last season. When he saw the field, he did not look good, and was absolutely abused in coverage at any points in which he was forced to move into one of the top three spots due to injury. There's not much else to say.

Perrish Cox

Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2012 - Perrish Cox 14 0 0 0 0 0 11 2 13

Cox came in with few expectations, and was given the dime cornerback role. That is to say, he always has the potential to play above Brock in certain packages, but Brock was the guy to step into the higher spots if someone was injured or had to come off the field. I thought he played pretty well for the most part, to be honest. I think he's still a guy with a lot of potential but all things considered, he probably performed above what expectations we all had.

Looking Forward

The 49ers aren't in a great spot. Brown has probably hit his ceiling and Rogers may only have another good season or two left in him. Brock isn't going anywhere and Culliver's ceiling is all over the place. I'd expect Cox to be back, but not at a big contract or anything. It's clear they either need a big name free agent or a high draft pick to throw into the mix because the position could be truly, horribly awful in the next couple seasons if the right attention isn't paid. Unfortunately, this draft is more inclined toward safeties than another position.

Still, expect the 49ers to take a cornerback with one of their top picks if someone good happens to fall to them. Darrelle Revis probably isn't actually an option but hey, you never know.