49ers’ secondary: Now and Later Part 1

Hello Readers! Today I will be writing about the current 49ers’ Secondary as well as their secondary of the future.

Last year, if you told me that the 49ers’ secondary would feature Eric Reid (who at the time, was projected to go in the late first round to the late second round), Donte Whitner (who allowed 16 receiving touchdowns last year in his coverage, including playoffs, according to PFF), Carlos Rogers (who looked downright horrible at times last year, especially when faced up against true slot wide receivers like Danny Amendola and Victor Cruz), Tarell Brown (who looked very mediocre at best in the playoffs), and Tramaine Brock (4-year roster bubble player), I would have been alarmed. In fact, I would have been even further irritated at the fact that Chris Culliver, who many, myself included, believed was the 49ers’ best DB last year, was out for the season.

But this secondary is playing amazingly so far. In fact, the 49ers have the 6th best passing defense in the league, allowing 217 yards a game through the air and just a 55.9 completion percentage. And in terms of QB rating, we are 4th in the league, allowing a meager 73.6 QBR. And while not all of our opposing QBs have been worthy opponents (looking at you Matt Schaub), we have faced the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck. Heck, we even handed Jake Locker his first interception of the season. While credit goes to the front 7 as well, this secondary has been doing there job–and more, forcing 9 interceptions on the year, the same amount of touchdowns they have allowed. All 5 of the defensive backs used in the 49ers nickel formation–Eric Reid, Donte (W)hitner, Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, and Tramaine Brock) each have PFF grade of +3.4 or higher on the season.

To start at the very top, Eric Reid has made Dashon Goldson proud, with his turnover-forcing ways and his extremely hard hits. But most 49er fans have already forgot that name by now, as Reid has so far been an upgrade over Goldson. He plays exactly like Goldson, with one major difference: He doesn’t take unnecessary risks. Reid is already playing like a true, experienced veteran, and while he is a great hitter, he has yet to be fined by the league for his viscous, yet legal, hits. But his partner in crime Donte (W)hitner has been doing amazing as well. In fact, he has yet to allow a single touchdown in his coverage so far this season. While his worst asset of his game last year was pass coverage, where he allowed a 128.5 QBR, he has only allowed a 44.5 QBR this year when he is targeted. The necessity of this safety tandem is well documented, and was shown this past Sunday. On the first play of the game that both Reid and Whitner were on the sidelines (viewed as minor injuries for both of them), the 49ers defense let up their first TD of the game, a 66 yard pass reception by Chris Johnson.

But the secondary group can’t be overlooked. Tramaine Brock has really come lit on fire in recent weeks. Ever since Nnamdi Asomugha was sidelined with injuries he has since recovered from, Brock has inspired the 49ers coaching staff and FO to keep Asomugha inactive. He had his coming out party against the Texans. In the Matt Schaub’s very first pass attempt, Brock made sure to give Schaub a favor and put Schaub’s name in the record books–by giving him the record for most games in a row with a pick six. But that wasn’t a one-play fluke– since that play he has added two more interceptions, giving him the team lead to share with Reid, although Brock has achieved 3 picks in much less PT. Carlos Rogers, on the other hand, has been a bit more on and off. Ever since his 6 interception effort in 2011, Rogers has only had 2 interceptions in 23 starts. But he has proven that he can be solid at times. The Arizona Cardinals game was one such example, a game where he had 2 passes defensed and one interception. And Tarell Brown, who most believe has been the 49ers’ best cornerback over the course of the season, has been nothing short of this. The only reason he doesn’t have an interception this season is because no sensible QB wants to pick on him. Despite this he still has an impressive 6 passes defended already this season. Games like the aforementioned 49ers-Texans week 5 matchup really shows this. That week he allowed just 25 yards in 7 passes intended in his direction, and graded out as PFF’s top corner of the week a +4.4 rating. Week 4 against the Rams wasn’t a bad game either, where he fell just one defensed pass short of his career high of 5 in a game.

In conclusion, the 49ers secondary has been stellar throughout the first 7 weeks of the season, and there is no indication as of yet that they won’t continue this trend. Every member of this 49ers’ secondary has played outstanding football and they are definetly outplaying their expectations. Please stay tuned. For Part 2, which will be released sometime later this week,  I will break down the future of this secondary, what the 49ers should do with many of their CBs hitting free agency next year, and how the 49ers should address the secondary through next year’s draft.

By the way all statistics are from NFL.com and PFF

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