NFL Nation: 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.
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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.

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.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The San Francisco 49ers are headed to Green Bay on Friday with questions at cornerback -- as there has been all week.

The team listed Carlos Rogers and his replacement, Eric Wright, as questionable to play in Sunday's wild-card game. Both players have hamstring injuries. It appears Wright may have a better chance of playing than Rogers.

Wright was injured in practice Thursday but returned Friday. Rogers missed practice all week after getting hurt Sunday at Arizona. His optimism waned as the week went on.

Tarell Brown and newly signed Perrish Cox will play extensively along with Tramaine Brock. So Wright will be needed. Barring a setback, he should be able to play.
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.

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.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers are going to get deeper at cornerback this week as they are expected to activate Eric Wright from the physically unable to perform list.

Wright
Wright was signed in the offseason to bring experience and ball skills to the defending NFC champions, and he will add to an already strong secondary. The 49ers cornerbacks have played well during the team's has string together a five-game winning streak. The starters are Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, and Tramaine Brock has taken over as the nickel cornerback from Nnamdi Asomugha.

Asomugha, signed earlier this year, may be in danger of being cut to make room for Wright on the 53-man roster.

It will be interesting to see if Wright can become more than a dime cornerback on this unit. I asked ESPN analyst Matt Williamson his thoughts. He said he doesn’t think Wright will break into the top three.

Still, Wright's presence will make the team deeper and provide important injury insurance.

“It’s a pretty good group for sure,” said Williamson, who also said he thinks the unit will be better when pass-rusher Aldon Smith comes back.

Manningham takes an important step

October, 24, 2013
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LONDON – Mario Manningham is not all the way back with the San Francisco 49ers, but the team made him feel that way during Wednesday’s practice.

Manningham -- working with the first-team offense -- scored a touchdown in practice. On cue, ever-excitable guard Alex Boone decided it was time to mark the occasion.

Manningham
“Boone and everybody else decided that it was time to have an eruption,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “And we all had a celebration on the field welcoming him back ... everybody just went nuts welcoming him back.”

The key is Manningham working with the first team. That is an indication that he is close to returning. Manningham is in his second practice week coming off of the physically unable to perform list, meaning the 49ers must decide on activating him by Nov. 5. Odds are he will play Nov. 10 against Carolina after the 49ers’ bye week.

He would be a huge boost to an offense that is desperate for receiver help.

Meanwhile, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said cornerback Eric Wright -- who also must be activated by Nov. 5 -- is coming along.

"He’s getting better and better," Fangio said. "And [we] put him in there yesterday with some of the defensive stuff. Last week he primarily did the scout-team work. This week we’ve put him in there with the defense ... few snaps here and there. And he’s done well. Obviously he’s not comfortable in the system yet. But he’s a guy that we think, once he kind of grasps it, he’ll grow leaps and bounds quickly because he’s played in the league. He’s done a lot of the things we do. He just has to learn to work with our guys and our lingo."

It will be interesting to see what happens when Wright is activated. Tramaine Brock has been terrific as the No. 3 cornerback, but I’m sure the 49ers will find room for Wright. His activation could mean the end of a short San Francisco tenure for Nnamdi Asomugha, who was hurt in September and lost his job to Brock.

Rapid Reaction: San Francisco 49ers

October, 20, 2013
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NASHVILLE -- A few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 31-17 victory against the Tennessee Titans.

What it means: The 49ers are rolling. They have won four straight games after starting 1-2. With the 0-7 Jacksonville Jaguars up next, the 49ers have a great opportunity to be 6-2 at the bye. They still trail the Seattle Seahawks, 6-1, in the NFC West. But the 49ers look like they are in this race for the long haul. This was an impressive, complete win against a tough team on the road. The 49ers have scored more than 30 points in four straight games for the first time since 1998.

Stock watch: 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had his best game since Week 1. He ran the ball out of the read-option offense the most he has all season. Kaepernick had 69 yards rushing on 10 carries, including a 20-yard touchdown gallop, his first of the season. Kaepernick was also impressive throwing completing 13-of-21 passes for 199 yards. Receiver Anquan Boldin helped Kaepernick out with three circus catches.

Defense strong again: The 49ers have allowed a combined 51 points in the four-game winning streak. The unit suffocated the Titans. Quarterback Jake Locker, playing after missing two games with a hip injury, had no chance. Tramaine Brock had his third interception in the past four games and again, the 49ers parlayed it into points. The 49ers scored a touchdown after the interception. They have scored seven touchdowns and four field goals on the drives following the 11 turnovers forced in the winning streak.

Harbaugh in scrum: Fiery 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh got in the middle of a pushing match that occurred in front of him. Harbaugh appeared to be trying to push Titans safety Bernard Pollard away from his players.

What’s next: The 49ers fly directly to London from Nashville on Sunday night. They will play Jacksonville on Sunday at Wembley Stadium, the 49ers’ second game in London in three years. They beat the Denver Broncos there three years ago. The Jaguars game is the 49ers’ final game against the AFC South this season. They are 2-1 against the division.

Willis, McDonald ready to go

October, 13, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Patrick Willis is an active San Francisco 49er again.

Willis
The star inside linebacker is expected to start. He hasn’t played since Week 3 against the Colts when he suffered a groin injury.

Defensive lineman Ray McDonald is also active as expected. He suffered a biceps injury last week and did not practice Wednesday and Thursday. But the team doesn’t think he is at risk of suffering further damage to the bicep if he continues to play.

McDonald
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and running back LaMichael James are healthy but still not active. Asomugha lost his No. 3 cornerback job when Tramaine Brock played well the past two weeks while Asomugha was out with a knee injury.

James missed the first three games with a knee injury. But the 2012 second-round pick did play the past two weeks. There have been signs that the team is not confident in James in pass protection. Thus, he may have a difficult time getting back on the field.

Asomugha and James potentially could be in danger when the 49ers starting bringing back several players from injured lists in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, CBS Sports is reporting that the 49ers have interest in Giants’ receiver Hakeem Nicks. It makes sense the 49ers are in need of a receiver and they have been also linked to the Browns’ Josh Gordon and the Titans’ Kenny Britt. The trade deadline is Oct. 29.

Tampa Bay signed guard Patrick Omameh off the 49ers’ practice squad. They now have an opening on the eight-player squad.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- An examination of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 34-3 win against the Texans:

Another defensive injury: The 49ers defense might have suffered another key loss as defensive tackle Ray McDonald went out with a right biceps injury. McDonald said after the game that he felt a sting. He will have an MRI on Monday. Tony Jerod-Eddie replaced McDonald. The 49ers defense has suffered several injuries, playing the past two games without All-Pro linebackers Aldon Smith (receiving treatment for alcohol abuse) and Patrick Willis (groin). San Francisco has been dominant without the two stars, allowing a combined 14 points. Now, the 49ers might have to adjust again if McDonald is out.

[+] EnlargeTramaine Brock
AP Photo/Beck DiefenbachCornerback Tramaine Brock had two interceptions against Houston.
Brock shines: Tramaine Brock is one of the many depth players who is getting an opportunity on defense, and he is cashing in. On the third offensive play of the game Sunday, Brock returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown. It was the first of his two interceptions in the game. Brock took over as the No. 3 cornerback last week when Nnamdi Asomugha went out with a knee injury. He played well against the Rams. Now, it is highly unlikely Asomugha gets his job back. It will be interesting what the 49ers do with a 32-year-old fourth cornerback. Right now, the focus is on Brock.

Kaepernick manages game: OK, so the 49ers scored 34 points and quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed only six passes. But it didn’t matter. The 49ers dominated this game. There is no denying the 49ers aren’t getting much help in the receiving game from anyone other than Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. But until Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree return, the 49ers are going to have to be conservative in the passing game. Kaepernick will not have Josh Freeman as his backup. The former Tampa Bay starter has agreed to terms with the Vikings. The 49ers reportedly talked to Freeman. It’s no surprise. The 49ers like quarterbacks, and Freeman would have been an upgrade as a backup over Colt McCoy and newly signed John Skelton. But Freeman’s road to playing is shorter in Minnesota.

Run game sets tone again: The San Francisco run game continued to shine against Houston. The 49ers called a designed run play on 67.3 percent of their plays Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Why not? It was working -- the 49ers had 118 of their 177 rushing yards before contact.

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