NFC West: Perrish Cox
ESPN.com Seattle Seahawks reporter Terry Blount makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Green Bay Packers
All the pregame hype will center around the so-called Inaccurate Reception, the controversial Hail Mary catch by Golden Tate two years ago that won the game over the Packers at Seattle on a Monday night. Tate has moved on to Detroit, but the Seahawks now have too many weapons for the Packers to stop, no Hail Mary required. Prediction: Win
Week 2: at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers better hope they play a lot better than they did in the preseason game at Seattle, a 41-14 victory for the Seahawks on Aug. 15. San Diego will play better, but not good enough to beat a much better team. Prediction: Win
Week 3: Denver Broncos
The Broncos and their fans got a tiny bit of meaningless Super Bowl revenge in the preseason opener with a 21-16 victory over the Seahawks in Denver. Enjoy it while it lasts, boys. Repeating that outcome in Seattle is not an option. Prediction: Win
Week 5: at Washington Redskins
Traveling coast to coast to play on the road for a Monday night game is a tough task against any NFL opponent, and even tougher against quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the Seahawks catch a break in this one by coming off a bye week with plenty of time to prepare and be fresh for the journey. Prediction: Win
Week 6: Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave Seattle a little bulletin-board material last month when he said the Seahawks were to blame for the increase in penalty flags during the preseason. There won't be near enough flags against Seattle for the Cowboys to win this one. Prediction: Win
Week 7: at St. Louis Rams
Any division game in the NFC West is a rugged battle. The Rams have a defensive line that gave the Seahawks problems a year ago. But they aren't strong enough overall to beat Seattle, even at home in their out-of-date dome. Prediction: Win
Week 8: at Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks were fortunate to win the season opener at Charlotte a year ago. That Panthers team was better than this one, but back-to-back road games against very physical defensive teams will end the Seattle winning streak. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Oakland Raiders
Coming off their first loss of the season and returning home against an outmanned opponent, is there any doubt? Prediction: Win
Week 10: New York Giants
The Seahawks easily defeated the Giants 23-0 last year in New Jersey, a dress rehearsal for their Super Bowl victory at the same location -- MetLife Stadium. The Seahawks won't need a rehearsal to roll past the Giants in this one. Prediction: Win
Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs
This likely will be a low-scoring game between two strong defensive teams. Odds are against any team that has to try to win by matching its defense against the Seahawks' D. Prediction: Win
Week 12: Arizona Cardinals
The last time the Cardinals played at CenturyLink Field was last December when they handed the Seahawks a 17-10 loss. That won't happen again unless the Seahawks get caught looking ahead to the 49ers game. The Seahawks don't look ahead. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at San Francisco 49ers
It's a Thanksgiving night, national TV game in the 49ers' shiny new stadium against the hated Seahawks. If San Francisco can't win this one, its time as a championship contender is over. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: at Philadelphia Eagles
This is the toughest part of the season for the Seahawks with back-to-back road games against likely playoff contenders. But the 10 days between games will help and be enough of a cushion to keep Seattle from losing two in a row. Prediction: Win
Week 15: San Francisco 49ers
This is a game that could decide which team wins the NFC West. No way the Seahawks lose to the 49ers twice in three weeks, especially not in front of a rabid full house of 12s. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals probably will be fighting for a playoff spot, and the Seahawks already will be in at 12-2. That difference will be just enough for Arizona to win at home in the same stadium where the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: St. Louis Rams
For the second consecutive year, the Rams close the regular season in Seattle. And for the second consecutive year, the Seahawks will beat them without much trouble. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 13-3
Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.
RUNNING BACKS (5)
The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
- Joe Staley
- Anthony Davis
- Alex Boone
- Mike Iupati
- Daniel Kilgore
- Marcus Martin
- Jonathan Martin
- Joe Looney
Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
- Justin Smith
- Ray McDonald
- Glenn Dorsey
- Tank Carradine
- Tony Jerod-Eddie
- Quinton Dial
- Ian Williams
- Kaleb Ramsey
This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.
Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.
This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.
Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.
This group is set and it's excellent.
So the fact two veteran cornerbacks were released Friday can't go unnoticed. Kansas City cut Brandon Flowers and Detroit jettisoned Chris Houston. Flowers is likely more intriguing because he has been the better player, while Houston is coming off an injury.
Ultimately, I'd expect Flowers to get a better deal elsewhere. But I could see the 49ers considering the idea. They have some salary cap room and as previously mentioned, there are questions at the position.
Still, a pursuit of Flowers wouldn't necessarily be a certainty. Flowers is 5-foot-9 and the 49ers are trying to get bigger and more physical at the position. Plus, even though the 49ers have questions at cornerback, there are pretty full there.
Chris Culliver, coming off a torn ACL, is expected to start opposite Tramaine Brock after Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers departed this offseason. First-round pick Jimmie Ward will play the nickel cornerback. The 49ers also have veteran Chris Cook, Eric Wright and Perrish Cox and drafted three rookie cornerback (one, Keith Reaser, is not play because of an injury).
If the 49ers are nervous about what they've seen so far in the offsason they could make a run at Flowers, but I'm not sure they will think it's worth the financial investment.
Cox bounced on and off the 49ers’ roster last season, but did play in the playoffs. He beat out veteran Eric Wright for playing time in the postseason. However, the 49ers signed Wright two weeks ago, indicating he is a bigger priority moving forward than Cox.
Cox, though, does lengthen the 49ers’ options at cornerback. Last week, we looked at where the position stands. So, Cox increased depth, at least, during training camp.
The 49ers will very likely use a high draft pick on a cornerback who will play a lot as a rookie.
The 49ers have just two remaining unrestricted free agents -- center Jonathan Goodwin and quarterback Colt McCoy. Only Goodwin has a chance to return, but that might be down the road.
The team only has one solid starter in place, but there are several players who could emerge. Of course, the 49ers could add a cornerback in a dwindling free-agent market and will surely pick one or two in the May 8-10 draft.
Let's take a look at where the 49ers stand at cornerback:
Tramaine Brock: A year ago, no one would have guess he would be the most reliable cornerback on the team. But Brock made the huge leap from a special teams to the No. 1 cornerback. He was terrific in 2013 and it earned him a four-year contract extension.
Chris Culliver: This is very fluid. The 49ers have confidence in Culliver, but, in a perfect world, he will play the nickel. Culliver, who has proven in the past he can play, missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Still, he's the type of player who would likely be a better No. 3 than a No. 2.
Eric Wright: The veteran is talented and has performed well in the past. Yet, he didn't do much last season. It was a mild surprise the 49ers re-signed him to a one-year deal. Wright, who was inactive by the end of the season, has a chance to help if he can gain the coaching staff's trust.
Young players with potential:
Darryl Morris: He opened eyes on special teams as an undrafted rookie last season. Coaches think he can help on defense, too.
Dax Swanson: He's a practice-squad player who will get a chance to impress in training camp.
Tarell Brown: Brown, a starter much of last season, went across the bay to Oakland for a one-year, $3.5 million deal. The 49ers wanted him back, but not at that price. He is solid and must be replaced.
Carlos Rogers: Cut by the 49ers, there's always a chance he could be brought back at a much reduced price. But I think the 49ers would like to move on.
Perrish Cox: It's telling that Wright was signed before he was. But similar to Rogers' situation, I guess the door can't be completely closed.
Potential future additions:
The remaining free-agent market is not overly enticing. The top players are Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Antonio Cromartie. Others include Champ Bailey and Jabari Greer. Rodgers-Cromartie would be a good fit, but he wants too much money. The good news for the 49ers is the draft is stacked at this position and they could easily find a starting-quality player in the early rounds.
The 49ers need to add here and they will probably do it through the draft. If they get the right player, they should be fine. Having players like Culliver, Wright and Cook as a rotation player is not a terrible situation. The key will be, whoever is brought on to the team, he must be ready to contribute right away.
In the past both teams have signed the others' former players, claimed them off waivers or signed them off the practice squad. Among the names that have made the San Francisco-Seattle shuffle in recent years:
Perrish Cox, B.J. Daniels, Ricardo Lockette, Cameron Morrah, Chris Harper, Charly Martin, Ryan Seymour and Seneca Wallace.
Few of these players have made a big impact. Thurmond would be different.
The Seahawks are strong at cornerback, so they likely can handle losing Thurmond. But seeing the 49ers improve with the addition of one of their players would not go over well in Seattle.
Returning free agents: receiver Anquan Boldin, kicker Phil Dawson, cornerback Eric Wright.
Departed free agents: Safety Donte Whitner (Browns).
Released: Cornerback Carlos Rogers.
Free=agent addition: Safety Antoine Bethea (Colts).
Acquired in trade: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert from Jaguars; tackle Jonathan Martin from Miami.
Remaining free-agent priority: Cornerback Tarell Brown.
Other remaining free agents: Center Jonathan Goodwin, receiver Mario Manningham, quarterback Colt McCoy, receiver Kassim Osgood, running back Anthony Dixon, cornerback Perrish Cox.
Starting lineup changes: Bethea for Whitner; likely Daniel Kilgore for Goodwin.
The team has gained cap room by reducing deals for backup safety Craig Dahl and backup receiver Jon Baldwin. They want cornerback Carlos Rogers back at a much reduced salary from the $6 million he is due. If he doesn't accept a pay cut, he will likely be cut. General manager Trent Baalke has said he doesn't think the team needs to reduce the salary of running back Frank Gore, who is set to make $6.4 million.
The deadline giving a player the franchise tag is Monday. The 49ers are not expected to use the tag. They have been close to a deal with receiver Anquan Boldin. Boldin, 33, is likely looking at a two- or three-year deal. He could be paid up to $17 million if it is a three-year deal. The team's other priority free agents are safety Donte Whitner, kicker Phil Dawson and cornerback Tarell Brown.
The 49ers extended the deal of Daniel Kilgore on Thursday. He was set to be a free agent next year. That means he is in line to start next year and that the 49ers likely won't re-sign Jonathan Goodwin, who started at center the past three years.
The team is not expected to give the restricted free-agent tender to backup defensive lineman DeMarcus Dobbs and cornerback Perrish Cox. That would make them unrestricted free agents.
The team's two injury question marks -- cornerback Carlos Rogers and fullback Will Tukuafu -- are active and will play. Rogers missed the past two games with a hamstring injury. Tukuafu missed most of the Carolina game with a knee injury.
Rogers will be the nickel cornerback. Perrish Cox, who played well when Rogers was out, will be the fourth cornerback.
Veteran Eric Wright is inactive because Rogers is active and because Cox beat him out two weeks ago. The 49ers expected more from Wright this season, but they see the younger Cox as a more reliable option.
Perrish Cox took Rogers' role in his absence.
Meanwhile, fullback Will Tukuafu told reporters he is day-to-day. He missed most of the Carolina game with a knee injury. He will likely be a game-time decision. Tukuafu shared time with Anthony Dixon. If he can't play, rookie tight end Vance McDonald will likely share time with Dixon as he did against Carolina.
Meanwhile, the 49ers signed receivers David Reed and DeMarco Sampson and defensive tackle Christian Tupou to future contracts.
So, it is unclear if Tukuafu can play. Because the 49ers lean on the conservative side when it comes to injuries, the odds could be against Tukuafu playing Sunday. It will probably be a game-time decision.
Tukuafu was splitting time with Anthony Dixon after Bruce Miller was lost for the season in December with a broken scapula. Dixon and tight end Vance McDonald, who took over Tukuafu’s role, will play Sunday if Tukuafu can’t.
For Rogers, Wednesday will be key. The cornerback has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 17. He hasn’t practiced since. Rogers and the team have said the injury isn’t overly serious, yet he has not been able to get on the practice field. If he can practice this week, he can probably play at Seattle. Perrish Cox has taken his place as the nickel cornerback.
Rogers has been running this week.
“I have to be smart,” he said. “I don’t know if I will be ready, but I am trying.”
All indications are that if Rogers can’t play, Perrish Cox will be the nickel cornerback. He played virtually the entire game at Green Bay over veteran Eric Wright. Fangio said the team went with Cox, who was signed earlier in the week, because he had a better week of practice than Wright.
Rotational defensive tackle DeMarcus Dobbs (knee) returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s session.
In other 49ers notes:
Fangio said he has had no contact with any teams about a head-coaching job. ESPN reported that the Redskins were interested in him. However, they hired Jay Gruden on Thursday.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman called talk that he interviewed for the Penn State job “speculation.” The school reportedly will hire Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. Roman’s name has also been attached to the open Minnesota Vikings job.
In an Insider piece, Matt Williamson thinks 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick could be a weak link at Carolina. He certainly was the last time these two teams played. But will it happen again?
ESPN Stats & Information has a matchup to watch in the game.
Earlier Wednesday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he liked his team’s overall health going into the game and the team's injury report confirmed the 49ers are in solid shape.
The following San Francisco players missed practice Wednesday: defensive tackle Demarcus Dobbs (knee, shoulder), center Jonathan Goodwin (not injury related), defensive tackle Justin Smith (shoulder) and Rogers.
Smith and Goodwin routinely don’t practice on Wednesdays and Dobbs is a backup. If Rogers, who didn’t play at Green Bay, can’t play Sunday, Perrish Cox and Eric Wright will play the nickel spot for him.
In other 49ers notes:
Harbaugh said this when asked to explain how much fun he’s having coaching in the playoffs: “This is as much fun as you can possibly have in football and as much fun as you can have in life, yeah.”
Harbaugh said he thought the 49ers matched up well physically against the tough-and-tumble Panthers in Carolina’s 10-9 win in San Francisco on Nov. 10.
Harbaugh complemented the Panthers' defensive front seven by saying it was the most talented group the 49ers have played this season.
It appears cornerback Carlos Rogers is on schedule to play at Carolina. He missed the Green Bay game with a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 17 at Arizona. Rogers told reporters Tuesday he's been running and feels on pace to play.
If Rogers plays, that means Perrish Cox will drop to the dime. Cox, signed last week, was the surprise call at nickel against Green Bay. He played nearly the entire game and did well, especially considering he was unemployed the week before. Cox was given the call over veteran Eric Wright.
Wright was expected to be the nickel with Rogers out. But there were indications that the team wasn't quite ready for Wright to play. He could bounce back and play some nickel moving forward.
Regardless, with a healthy Rogers and confidence in Cox, the 49ers head forward in the playoffs with renewed strength at the position.
Rogers suffered a hamstring injury Sunday at Arizona. Both Rogers and Fangio said this week that the injury is not bad as initially thought.
A decision on Rogers’ availability might not happen until Sunday. Possible replacements include Eric Wright, Tarell Brown and Perrish Cox.