Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.
Tarell Brown has become a very reliable cornerback for the 49ers over the years, and since Vic Fangio has arrived he's become one of the most consistent corners in all of the NFL. The depth chart at the position has a lot of uncertainty as to who will play where, but Brown's starting spot appears to be locked up before he takes part in even one training camp practice.
Why he could improve in 2013
Brown showed improvement from 2011 to 2012, and at age 28, he shouldn't start slipping just yet. The biggest area of improvement last season was in tackling. After a game at the tail end of 2011 against the Seahawks where Brown wasn't willing to engage Marshawn Lynch (who scored on the play), letting him pass by, I haven't seen Brown shy away from hitting an opposing player since. In 2011, Brown had 40 tackles; in 2012 he had a solid 56. Yet another year surrounded by all the hard-hitting teammates of his should bode well for Brown increasing his tackle total yet again.
When it comes to coverage, Brown is rock solid in man coverage, and seldom gets beat deep. Take a look at Liberty_Jac's film study of Brown against the Packers -- a must read! So Brown doesn't give up the long ball, but what can he improve on in coverage? Quick slants when the 49ers are playing off coverage. Against the Falcons in the NFC Championship game, Julio Jones found success against Brown when it wasn't press coverage. It would be nice to see the 49ers play a little less bend-but-don't-break defense in general, and to let Brown play tight coverage from the get-go. How can he improve on defending short patterns? That's what training camp is for, fine tuning your game. Brown has improved the last two seasons, and there's no reason to think he won't improve in some facet this year.
Most needed improvement
Another area of improvement, and arguably the biggest, could be on comeback routes. Brown doesn't get beat often on deep balls; usually he's stride and stride with his man, but comeback routes are a different story. Defending the comeback involves more innate, quick reacting instincts than any other attribute. Against the New York Giants last season was a case in point of this. Eli Manning repeatedly threw comebacks and abused the 49ers secondary. If I know this and Tarell knows this, I expect less slip-ups and more interceptions going back to the house!
How he could regress in 2013
As already stated, Brown does not get beat deep, but could that change in 2013? I don't believe so, but it depends partially on the 49ers new free safety, rookie Eric Reid. With Dashon Goldson back there, quarterbacks were weary of throwing far down field and taking chances; Goldson was a ballhawk with great instincts back there. I expect teams to test Reid's instincts and coverage abilities when there's a one-on-one matchup down the field. This could lead to more passes being thrown farther down field to the man Brown is covering. More attempts leave more room for failure or success, and I'm sure Brown would say "Bring it on". Ideally, Eric Reid is a great pick, and teams respect him early on in his career and limit the chances they take down the field. Even if Reid has some growing pains, I still expect Brown to handle his own without the help of a safety. Help is always nice though!
Odds of making the roster:
T-Brown is making the roster! If he doesn't, I will take you all out to a nice seafood restaurant.