NFC West: Tramaine Brock

Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

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)

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)

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.

LINEBACKERS (7)

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.

CORNERBACKS (5)

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.

SAFETIES (5)

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.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.
There's little doubt the San Francisco 49ers' biggest question area is at cornerback because of all the flux this offseason.

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.
Flowers
Could the 49ers make a run at Flowers?

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.

Biggest 49ers questions

May, 19, 2014
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With the NFL draft over and the offseason programs in full swing, let’s look at the three biggest questions facing the San Francisco 49ers:

Kaepernick/Harbaugh contracts: These have been questions all offseason and they linger. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is entering the final year of his contract, while coach Jim Harbaugh has two years remaining. There is a chance both can get done before training camp, yet there is also a solid chance both go through the season without a deal. Could it be a distraction? Perhaps, because it will certainly be a topic for media and fans if there isn't clarity before the season starts.

Aldon Smith: The 49ers are waiting for Smith’s legal issues to be resolved and if he has to serve an NFL suspension in 2014. It is a real possibility. The 49ers went 5-0 last year with Smith when he was in a treatment center for substance abuse. The 49ers are preparing to play without him again.

The cornerbacks: This is one of the few positions where the 49ers have on-field questions. The team is preparing to use Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver as the starting cornerbacks and their first-round pick -- safety Jimmie Ward -- as the nickel cornerback. They have several players vying to be the backups. The biggest question is whether Culliver, who like Smith is dealing with off-field issues, can come back from a torn knee that kept him out all of last season. The team believes he is up for the task.
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers were supposed to be powerbrokers of the first round.

Everyone was expecting them to go make the big move for a top-end receiver in an effort to compete with Super Bowl champion -- and heated NFC West rival -- Seattle.

Instead, the 49ers ended up addressing their one true need -- albeit in an unexpected way.

Instead of trading up for stud LSU receiver Odell Beckham or taking one of the glamour cornerbacks, the 49ers grabbed Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward with the 30th pick.

At first glance, it smacked of a curious reach. Yes, Ward was a scout's favorite, but he was considered more of a second-round pick. And he played a position the 49ers made their biggest offseason investment at -- by signing veteran Antoine Bethea to a four-year, $23 million deal.

With receivers Cody Latimer and Marqise Lee still on the board, picking Ward did not initially appear to make much sense. But after digesting the pick, I could see why the 49ers made this pick.

The 49ers' benchmark is defense. With star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman out until about midseason with a torn ACL and star linebacker Aldon Smith's future clouded by a potential NFL suspension, the 49ers need to keep their edge in the early season.

This move should ensure they stay stout in the secondary. In addition to safety Donte Whitner (who Bethea replaces), the 49ers parted ways with their second and third cornerbacks -- Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers -- this offseason. Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver are expected to start.

The 49ers want to see Ward become the nickel. He played there often at Northern Illinois. Some teams are using safeties as a nickel and it seems the 49ers are going that route.

There were rumblings the 49ers didn't like any of the four cornerbacks that went in the first round -- Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard and Jason Verrett. They had the means to trade up and pick any of them and didn't.

Instead, they eyed the hard-hitting, competitive and smart Ward.

This may be out of the box, but it seems like a 49ers move. Having Reid, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season, the steady Bethea and Ward on the field together makes this a strong secondary.

49ers general manager Trent Baalke raved about Ward's competitive nature. Coach Jim Harbaugh simply said: "He loves football."

Baalke, who saw Ward play live once, said it was telling that when he asked scouts which games of Ward's he should watch, multiple scouts said, "Pick one." It was Ward's consistency that stood out to the 49ers.

Ward, who had the second most interceptions in the country last season with seven, led his team in tackles and interceptions the past two seasons. Baalke doesn't think coming from a smaller conference will be too much for Ward.

"The stage isn't too big for him," Baalke said.

Ward showed he had the mental toughness for the NFL when he ran for scouts with a broken foot, which is expected to be completely healed by training camp. Ward posted a 4.48 40-time on a bad wheel. That made Baalke smile.

The 49ers may not have stolen headlines with this pick, but they did add a key component to what makes them the 49ers -- an ornery defense.
No position on the San Francisco 49ers has more uncertainty than cornerback -- and it's not even close.

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:

Brock
Starters:

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.

Slot candidates:

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.

Cook
Chris Cook: He is the 49ers' lone offseason addition at the position so far. Cook, a second-round pick by Minnesota in 2010, has struggled at times -- on and off the field. But there are some positives; he's 6-foot-2 and the team wants him to play in press coverage. Also, he came at a cheap price, getting paid the league minimum with no bonus. Perhaps the light will come on with strong coaching.

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.

Departed:

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.

Cox
Still possible:

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.

Conclusion:

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.

49ers' 2013 breakout stars

February, 10, 2014
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The San Francisco 49ers saw some players take the next step in their careers in 2013. Let's look at the top three players who enjoyed breakout seasons:

1. Tramaine Brock: Brock had a stunning ascent in 2013. He went from being a special teamer in training camp to finishing the season as the 49ers' top cornerback. It earned him a four-year contract extension. He has a place as a starter for the long term.

2. Glenn Dorsey: This worked out great for the 49ers. The nose tackle blossomed in his first season in San Francisco after signing a two-year deal. Dorsey was the No. 5 overall pick in 2008 by Kansas City. He was just average with the Chiefs before having a standout season with the 49ers.

3. Tony Jerod-Eddie: This is an interesting player. He spent most of the 2012 season on the practice squad. Yet he quickly developed and become a key part of the defensive line, helping keep veterans Justin Smith and Ray McDonald fresh.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 4
Preseason Power Ranking: 2

Biggest surprise: The impact that Michael Crabtree's injury and then his return had on the team. When Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles in May, the 49ers knew it would affect their offense. But his absence was felt dramatically during the 11 games he was out. The 49ers had essentially nothing behind receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis in the passing game. However, when he returned Dec. 1, the 49ers were instantly a better, more varied, dangerous offense. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was more confident. The difference was stark.

Biggest disappointment: The loss at New Orleans on Nov. 17. The 49ers appeared to have sealed the game when linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked and forced New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees to fumble late. But Brooks was called for a questionable personal foul. The Saints rallied to win. It was a major storyline in the NFL that week. Had the 49ers won, they would have finished 13-3, won a tiebreaker over Seattle in the NFC West and would not have had to play at Seattle in the playoffs.

Biggest need: The 49ers are deep. They don't have many holes. But they can use another young receiver. Boldin is 33 and a free agent. Fourth-round pick Quinton Patton looks promising, but San Francisco will likely take a speed receiver early in the draft. Expect the team to take a cornerback fairly early as well. The 49ers need to develop a young player there.

Team MVP: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The 25-year-old had an amazing season. He is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He was dominant in virtually every game. He is a special playmaker. It was a sad sight seeing him being carted off in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at Seattle with a major knee injury. Bowman is expected back next season. The 49ers need him.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When great plays happen, they get talked about for days.

Thus, it was no surprise that "The Pick" was still the first topic Thursday when the San Francisco 49ers met the media.

Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman caught a deflected pass and took it 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the 49ers' 34-24 victory over Atlanta in the final regular-season game at Candlestick Park. Bowman started the play as a pass-rusher and then shot back to the ball to try to make a tackle.

Thursday, San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said the entire defense was perfect on the play.

“Everybody on that play did their job exactly correct, all 11 guys,” Fangio said. “Luckily it worked out. But it just goes to show when you execute, all 11 guys doing the right thing at the right time with the right amount of energy, good things can happen. And everybody was right on point on that play. And it’s something that we don’t call very often, don’t practice very often, but it’s always on the plan every week, and that was the time to use it.”

Fangio said it was an all-out blitz. He said he’s probably called the play three times this season.

“Just felt like it was the time based upon the situation and the way things were going,” Fangio said. “Obviously to get a pick-six is far-fetched, but we had a good down.”

Besides Bowman, cornerback Tramaine Brock and safety Eric Reid were particularly good on the play. Brock deflected the pass into the air, and Reid made great penetration on the blitz.

“It feels good to be part of it,” Brock said Thursday.

NaVorro Bowman adds to DPOY cause

December, 26, 2013
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Earlier this month, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh stumped for inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman to be a candidate for the NFL's defensive player of the year award.

Now, Bowman has a signature moment to help his candidacy.

Bowman
Bowman, a tackling machine who has been one of the most consistent defensive players in the league, made one of the most memorable plays of the season to seal the 49ers’ playoff berth in a 34-24 win over Atlanta.

He caught a tipped ball by San Francisco cornerback Tramaine Brock and took it 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the game with 1:10 to go. Bowman started the play as a pass-rusher and then shot back to the ball to try to make a tackle.

What does Harbaugh think of Bowman’s chances for the award now?

“It’s sure not going to hurt him,” Harbaugh said.

I think Bowman will have difficulty getting interest, in part because he is not a high-profile name (even though he was an All-Pro last year). There are better-known players on the 49ers’ defense, such as Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and fellow inside linebacker Patrick Willis.

Still, there is no doubt Bowman deserves consideration.

Upon Further Review: 49ers Week 16

December, 24, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO -- A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 34-24 win over Atlanta:

Bowman
Crabtree
Bowman redemption: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman has arguably been the 49ers’ best player this season. That’s why it was so shocking when he put himself in position to be the goat of the game Monday night. However, it was less shocking when Bowman came up with the biggest moment of the game and perhaps San Francisco’s season moments later. Bowman made a huge mistake when he let an onside kick get past him. The Falcons recovered the ball, down 27-24, with 2 minutes, 9 seconds to play. The Falcons quickly moved inside the red zone and appeared ready to tie the game or take the lead. But Bowman redeemed himself dramatically as he caught a tipped ball (after a nice play by San Francisco cornerback Tramaine Brock) and took it 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the game with 1:10 to go.

Playoff bound: The 49ers, who are 11-4 and have won five straight games, have qualified for the playoffs in all three seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh. With their thrilling win, they closed out the last regular-season game played at Candlestick Park the right way. There is still a slight chance there could be playoff football at Candlestick. The 49ers can still be the No. 1, No. 2, No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the NFC. They will win the NFC West and get a first-round bye if Seattle loses to visiting St. Louis and the 49ers win at Arizona on Sunday. If the 49ers beat the Cardinals, the lowest seed they will be is No. 5.

Kaepernick, Crabtree shine in second half: The 49ers scored 31 of their 34 points in the second half. A big reason why is quarterback Colin Kaepernick and receiver Michael Crabtree. Crabtree had one catch for 3 yards in the first half. He came back with four catches for 99 yards in the second half. Kaepernick averaged 12.8 yards per passing attempt in the second half after averaging just 6.3 in the first half.

Pass defense shaky: The San Francisco defense has been special for most of this season, especially in the second half of the season. Yes, San Francisco had its moments defensively against Atlanta and it made the big plays when needed, but the Falcons produced in the air. Matt Ryan completed 37 of 48 passes for 348 yards. Receiver Roddy White had 12 catches for 141 yards. Is this alarming? Not unless it continues into the playoffs. Ryan was dumping off a lot of short passes. It simply may be chalked up to a bad night for the 49ers’ pass defense, but it is worth monitoring moving forward.

Mike Iupati out again for 49ers

December, 15, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The San Francisco 49ers must wait another week before getting their starting 11 offensive players on the field together for first time this season.

Left guard Mike Iupati is inactive for the fourth straight game with a knee sprain. He practiced all week on a limited basis. Barring a setback, expect him to play against Atlanta on Dec. 23. Adam Snyder continues to play for Iupati. The 49ers have not played a down all season with their full starting offensive lineup.

Cornerback Tarell Brown is active for the first time since injuring his ribs Nov. 17 at New Orleans. He is expected to back up Tramaine Brock, who took his place.

Rookie tight end Vance McDonald is inactive with an ankle injury. It is not expected to be overly serious.

Tramaine Brock continues to shine

December, 13, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Tramaine Brock keeps answering every challenge.

Brock
When the season began, it seemed Brock could be going into his last with the San Francisco 49ers. He had promise, but he never developed the way the team wanted him. In camp, he was a special teamer, who looked like he'd leave as a free agent in 2014.

Now, he is showing the 49ers he was well worth the investment as a long-time starting cornerback.

As he did when he became the nickel cornerback in Week 4 when Nnamdi Asomugha got hurt (Asomugha has since been released), Brock has positioned himself well after replacing an injured Tarell Brown three weeks ago. Brock was terrific as the nickel cornerback and has continued to play well in his first three games as a starter. The 49ers have to feel great about giving him a four-year, $16 million extension last month.

Brock is showing he can be a quality starter. In fact, there is likely little chance he will give up his starting job the rest of the season. San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio continued to say Thursday that Brown, who is now healthy after suffering a ribs injury at New Orleans, will be eased back into the lineup.

“I just trying to make plays and take advantage of the position I'm in,” Brock said. “It's a big season for me. It's worked out well.”

The 49ers can say the same thing.

Morning 49ers nuggets

December, 6, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said cornerback Tarell Brown will be eased back in to the playing rotation when he returns from the rib injury he suffered at New Orleans on Nov. 17. Brown has been practicing on a limited basis this week. Tramaine Brock took his place.

There is a chance Brock, who recently signed a four-year contract extension, will stay the starter, since he is in the team’s long-term plans and has played well in Brown’s spot.

Rookie tight end Vance McDonald practiced on a limited basis Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s workout with an ankle injury. He should be able to play Sunday.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said receiver Michael Crabtree has no soreness from his Achilles injury and has looked good in practice this week. Crabtree made his season debut Sunday and played 42 snaps against St. Louis.

Are the 49ers uptight going into a big game against Seattle? It didn’t look like it Thursday. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, linebacker NaVorro Bowman and receiver Quinton Patton had a punting contest before practice. On my unofficial scorer’s card, it was Kaepernick in a landslide.

Speaking of Kaepernick, Roman had this to say about the quarterback's performance against the Rams: “I thought last week’s game against the Rams was one of the best games, if not the best, he’s played big-picture-wise. Everything from soup to nuts, A to Z, I thought it was a magnificent performance on a lot of levels.”

Kaepernick wasn’t the only quarterback getting praise. Seattle's Russell Wilson got a strong endorsement from Fangio: “Everybody thinks this guy’s a freak quarterback. This guy’s just a really good quarterback who happens to be very fast, very quick and very elusive. He’s not just a guy that runs around. He’s a passer, too. He can run any offense and be a confident quarterback.”

Finally, 49ers fans may not want to look up Sunday when the Seahawks come to town.

San Francisco 49ers injury wire

November, 23, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – There were no surprises Saturday when the San Francisco 49ers released their injury report for Monday night’s game at Washington.

As expected, guard Mike Iupati (knee), cornerback Tarell Brown (ribs) and receiver Quinton Patton (foot) have been ruled out. Adam Snyder will play for Iupati while Tramaine Brock – who signed a four-year contract extension with the club on Friday – will play for Brown.

Defensive tackle Ray McDonald (ankle) is listed as questionable. He hasn’t played in two weeks and it would be a surprise if he plays Monday. Tony Jerod-Eddie is set to start for a second straight game.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said it would be determined in the next two days if receiver Michael Crabtree, who tore his Achilles in May, will be activated in time for the game. Crabtree still may be a couple weeks away from playing.

Asomugha's decline remarkable

November, 4, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Two years after the summer of Nnamdi, the former star free agent finds himself unemployed for the second time in 2013.

Asomugha
In move that was expected, the San Francisco 49ers cut Nnamdi Asomugha on Monday and activated Eric Wright.

Asomugha had been a healthy scratch the past three games, and there was little reason to keep a 32-year-old cornerback who hasn't played well or helped on special teams. Asomugha played the first three games of this season for the 49ers and before suffering a knee injury. Tramaine Brock, has been excellent in Asomugha’s place. With Wright now activated, Asomugha was released.

Monday was a continuation of Asomugha's career downward spiral. Two years ago, Asomugha was the free-agent prize after the NFL lockout ended. The Eagles outbid several teams to sign him away from Oakland, where he had been one of the premier cornerbacks in the NFL. Asomugha's play dipped dramatically after he signed with the Eagles, who parted ways with him in the offseason.

The 49ers were looking for veteran depth when they signed Asomugha to a one-year, $1.35 million deal. Now, they will hope he is claimed Tuesday so the remaining value of his contract is taken on by another team. Asomugha could draw interest from a contender that needs depth at cornerback.

Asomugha was on his way to being on a winning team for the first time in his 11-year NFL career. The 49ers are 6-2, but they will head down the stretch run without Asomugha.

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