The 2015 season will feature a sizable amount of turnover on the 49ers cornerback depth chart. The two starting cornerbacks, Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver, departed in free agency. Tramaine Brock, Dontae Johnson and Jimmie Ward are three of the more notable returning names, while the team has also added Shareece Wright, and will benefit from healthy players like Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser.
The Jim Harbaugh era featured defenses that managed to turn fairly low profile cornerbacks into solid options. The 49ers did not produce a single "lock-down" island type corner, but they got consistently strong play from the cornerbacks. Ed Donatell served as the team's defensive backs coach from 2011 to 2014, and his departure is one area that will be something to track on the coaching staff. Tim Lewis is well-regarded, so hopefully we don't see a drop in the performance.
The defense is coming off a 2014 season in which it led the NFL with 23 interceptions. It was easy to sleep on this group, but there was talent across the board, even amidst all the injuries. Perrish Cox led the team with five interceptions, and Chris Culliver and Antoine Bethea each had four.
The 49ers were consistently in the top half of the NFL in interceptions during the Ed Donatell era. They had 18 interceptions in 2013 (t-10th), 14 in 2012 (t-16th), and 23 in 2011 (t-2). The 2011 team was viewed as a bit of an anomaly in terms of turnovers, but that came in large part because of a large number of fumble recoveries. This is a team that has been a solid ball-hawking group.
Now we head into 2015 wondering what to make of the defense, and particularly the secondary. Cornerbacks are not the only ones to get interceptions, but I wanted to look at interceptions as a whole. Just for the heck of it, I'll set the over/under at 18.5. The team averaged 19.5 over the last four years. Knocking it down one interception, would you take the over or under of total interceptions for the entire defense?