San Francisco 49ers: Darryl Morris

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.
One of the most closely-watched training camp battle will be one that encompasses both sides of the field for the San Francisco 49ers -- special teams.

Because the 49ers are so deep, it may be difficult to keep some players who specialize on special teams. They kept a core of special teams player last year, though, and saw a dramatic spike in production from the unit. So, the team knows the importance of keeping quality special teamers.

Here is a look at some players how hope to make the team based on special teams:

Blake Costanzo: The 49ers brought back this special teams ace this season. But he may have difficulty making the roster. If young linebackers Nick Moody and Shayne Skov show both potential on defense and proficiency on special teams, Constanzo will have an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster.

Darryl Morris: Morris has been working at slot cornerback and can take himself off this list of valuable special teamers by gaining the trust of the defensive coaches. Even if he does, he will remain a core special teamer, albeit a more valuable one. Count on it happening.

Lawrence Okoye: This is a special case. Okoye is a major project, but he is so intriguing. He is a fast, huge and athletic. Yet, he is a total green banana when it comes to football. He will need time to develop at defensive tackle. Yet, he stood out in workouts on special teams. He may work his way on the team as a special teamer, while getting seasoning on defense.

Kassim Osgood: He is one of the best special teamers in the NFL. He was a big reason why the 49ers were so good on special teams last year. But there is major logjam at receiver if Brandon Lloyd continues a big training camp and the 49ers don't have key injuries. Osgood could be a victim of the numbers game.

C.J. Spillman: He isn't going anywhere. He is a core special teamer, and can help some at safety.

Bubba Ventrone: Ventrone is like Osgood. He helped the 49ers become good on special teams last year, but he is basically just a special teamer. That could make him vulnerable. But I still think he has a great chance of making it, especially if the 49ers can't find a way to keep Osgood. The 49ers could take a hit without Osgood and Ventrone.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Last year, simply making the San Francisco 49ers' roster was a significant accomplishment for Darryl Morris.

This year, the goal is to get on the field for significant playing time on defense.

The undrafted rookie cornerback went from the practice squad to the 53-man roster to being a big part of the special teams as a rookie. Now, Morris is trying to take the next step: Being a nickel cornerback.

Morris is getting practice time in the slot. He has a chance to be in the rotation.

"He's a smart guy. He's fast. He's tough," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Morris. "So, he's got some good intangibles along those ways. He just has to learn to play the position and all the nuances that go at that, which is a tall order for him coming from a small school, just making the team, making the practice squad and then being called up is a major victory. And now to ask him to take this next step, we'll see how he does with it. And he's made slow but steady progress through the offseason."

Morris has been studying tape of Carlos Rogers from last season to help get accustomed to his new duties. He played a more traditional cornerback role in college at Texas State.

"There's differences, like angles and things," Morris said. "It's an adjustment, but I think it's an opportunity and I want to continue to work at in training camp."
Update: The 49ers have officially announced Wright’s retirement. He said in a statement he lost the passion for the game.

The decision by Eric Wright to not attend minicamp likely won't affect the San Francisco 49ers too much, even though the cornerback position is one of great flux.

Wright
Wright, who is considering retirement, would likely be a rotational player anyhow. It was a bit of a surprise when the 49ers re-signed Wright to a low one-year deal in March. He only played in seven games last season, and it appeared the 49ers' coaching staff didn't have much trust in him down the stretch.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said on Tuesday that he thought Wright was heading toward retirement, and the seven-year veteran wasn't present as the team opened its mandatory minicamp.

The 49ers have several cornerbacks vying to make the team and Wright was one of them. Again, he wasn't expected to be a core player. His absence gives players such as Darryl Morris, Perrish Cox and rookie Ken Acker a better chance of getting valuable reps in during minicamp and training camp.

The 49ers could also add on a player at the spot, as well. Harbaugh wouldn't comment on whether the team had interest in Brandon Flowers, who was recently cut by Kansas City. As is policy, Harbaugh wouldn't bite.

Flowers is a fine player, but I'm not sure the 49ers want to spend what it would take to get him. Plus, Flowers is 5-foot-9 and the 49ers are moving toward bigger cornerbacks.
With organized team activities in full swing for the San Francisco 49ers, the biggest on-field question the team must answer is at cornerback.

The team is undergoing a major transformation at the position. Two of their top three cornerbacks last season -- Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown -- departed this offseason. Rogers was cut and Brown left in free agency. Both signed are now with Oakland.

Tramaine Brock, who was superb last season after starting camp as a special teamer, has emerged as the team's best cornerback. Chris Culliver, who could be subject to an NFL suspension after a felony arrest this offseason, is set to start. He played well in 2012, but missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

Rookie Jimmie Ward, the team's first-round pick, is a safety, but he will play the nickel cornerback spot this year. He has experience there. Veterans Eric Wright and newly signed Chris Cook and second-year player Darryl Morris are among those who also have a chance at playing time. ESPN's Matt Williamson believes Cook, a former second-round pick who failed to live up to expectations with the Vikings, can improve as a 49er. He is big and physical and a good fit for the defense.

While there are question marks, the truth is, the 49ers were looking to move away from Rogers and Brown and think this can be an upgraded spot. The 49ers are very confident with their defensive coaching staff. Brock developed quickly and their cornerbacks this year can thrive as well.

In the long-term, this position is still a work in progress. Culliver is a free agent after the season and Ward is a long-term safety. The 49ers will likely add to this position next year and hope recent draft picks, Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Ken Acker can help next year. Johnson could even figure in this year's plan.

Again, this position will be a storyline all summer, but the 49ers are comfortable with it at this point.

Salary-cap look: Defense

April, 15, 2014
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Let’s take a look at how the San Francisco 49ers' 2014 salary-cap status currently breaks down, thanks to ESPN Stats & Information.

The 49ers have about $4 million under the cap and will get another $6 million-plus June 1 because of the Carlos Rogers cut. Most of that money will go to signing the rookie class.

At this time of year, only the top 51 contracts count toward the salary-cap. Here's a position-by-position look at the 49ers' salary-cap situation under the top 51 rule. We looked at the offense on Monday. Now, let’s look at the defense:

Defensive line

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 15.23

Total cap charge: $19,519,371

NFL average: $21,632,204

Biggest cap hit: Justin Smith, $6,936,667

Biggest bargain: Tony Jerod-Eddie, $495,000

Outlook: The 49ers are getting pretty good value out of this position. Smith is nearing the end of his career, but he is still productive. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald’s cap number is more than $5 million, but he’s also productive. The rest of the unit are pretty reasonably priced.

Linebackers

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 22.69

Total cap charge: $29,083,725

NFL average: $15,201,455

Biggest cap hit: NaVorro Bowman, $7,050,000

Biggest bargain: Michael Wilhoite, $570,000

Outlook: The 49ers are paying their linebackers almost double the league average. But it is perhaps the best unit in the NFL. Thus, they are getting what they pay for. Even though he is taking up the most cap room, Bowman will miss about half the season because of a torn ACL. Wilhoite has the best chance to replace him. This position could be even more expensive next year. Aldon Smith has a cap number of more than $4 million this year. The 49ers may give him a 2015 option with a price tag of more than $9 million. But again, the value is there from this group. With quarterback Colin Kaepernick getting more money soon, the 49ers will have to take cap room from other positions, with running back an area that could be reduced in 2015.

Cornerback

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 3.62

Total cap charge: $4,645,719

NFL average: $12,316,626

Biggest cap hit: Tramaine Brock, $2,000,000

Biggest bargain: Darryl Morris, $495,000

Outlook: Along with quarterback (and that will change soon), this is the 49ers’ biggest bargain area. They pay their cornerbacks more than 60 percent less than the NFL average. Yes, the group is young and that is a reason for the low average. The 49ers may use a first-round pick at the position and that will change things. But this position will remain a relative bargain for the next few years, which will help expected raises at other positions.

Safety

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 7.63

Total cap charge: $9,784,111

NFL average: $8,237,006

Biggest cap hit: Antoine Bethea, $3,000,000

Biggest bargain: Eric Reid, $1,927,444

Outlook: The 49ers are just above the league average at safety, but they get production. Reid, a first-round pick last year, gives great value and they also get strong special teams production from C.J. Spillman, Bubba Ventrone and Craig Dahl.
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.
Much has been made about the Seattle Seahawks building their Super Bowl-winning roster on the power of undrafted free agents. Seattle had 21 undrafted free agents on their 53-man roster.

The Seahawks’ biggest competitor, the San Francisco 49ers, also have built their roster with the help of undrafted free agents. The 49ers ended the season with 16 of their 53 players being players who entered the league after not being drafted. They also have defensive tackle Ian Williams, who was on the injured reserve, as an undrafted player in their program.

Let’s take a look at the 17 San Francisco players who were not drafted:

Guard Alex Boone
Cornerback Tramaine Brock
Tight end Derek Carrier (originally signed by Oakland)
Tight end Garrett Celek
Safety Craig Dahl (Giants)
Kicker Phil Dawson (Oakland)
Defensive tackle DeMarcus Dobbs
Defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie
Long-snapper Kevin McDermott
Cornerback Darryl Morris
Receiver Kassim Osgood (San Diego)
Linebacker Dan Skuta (Cincinnati)
Safety C.J. Spillman (San Diego)
Fullback Will Tukuafu (Seattle)
Safety Bubba Ventrone (New England)
Linebacker Michael Wilhoite
Defensive tackle Ian Williams

49ers rankings: 41-45

February, 6, 2014
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We are taking a look at the top 60 players in the San Francisco 49ers' program and will rank them from 1-60. We are going to take a look in a 12-part series, moving upward. The ranking considerations are based on 2013 production, future projections, age and contract status:

41. Darryl Morris: The undrafted rookie was a nice surprise for the 49ers. He became a big part of the special teams, and the 49ers like him as a cornerback moving forward. He should only get better.

42. Bubba Ventrone: First-year 49er was a huge part of the special teams and a big reason why the unit improved so much. A keeper.

43. Kassim Osgood: Similar to Ventrone. But he is 33 compared to Ventrone's 31. Osgood is a free agent, but I wouldn't be shocked if he is back.

44. Perrish Cox: The cornerback bounced on and off the roster but did help the 49ers in their two playoff wins. He is restricted free agent who likely won't be tendered. I can see the 49ers bringing him back.

45. Kevin McDermott: The rookie long snapper did a great job. His battle with veteran Brian Jennings was a summer-long storyline. But once the season started McDermott became a non-story because he did exactly what you want from your snapper -- he was flawless. He looks to have a nice career ahead of him.
With the San Francisco 49ers' season over, let’s take a look at the impact made by the rookie class:

First round: The 49ers traded up to take safety Eric Reid at No. 18 and they have not been disappointed. He made the Pro Bowl after a strong season in which he showed the game is not too big for him. Reid was very polished and he seems like he will be a big part of the team's future for many years.

Second round: The 49ers feel very good about tight end Vance McDonald's future. He improved as the season went on, especially as a blocker, but he must improve as a receiver, too.

Third round: Auburn linebacker Corey Lemonier played more earlier in the season when Aldon Smith was away from the team, but he did play on special teams for much of the season. He has potential and provides the 49ers with good depth.

Fourth round: Receiver Quinton Patton returned from a Week 4 broken foot in December and showed a real burst. He has explosion and plays with a lot of confidence. He looks like he may be a find.

Fifth round: Defensive tackles Quinton Dial didn’t play much, but the team likes him and he has a chance to be a rotational player soon.

Sixth round: The 49ers like linebacker Nick Moody's his special-teams potential.

Undrafted free agents

Long snapper: Kevin McDermott's battle with longtime snapper Brian Jennings was a story during the preseason. McDermott won the job partly on price tag, and the move paid off. McDermott did a great job all season and had chemistry with kicker Phil Dawson and punter Andy Lee. He looks like he will be a 49er for many years.

Cornerback: Darryl Morris has developed into a key piece for a vastly improved coverage unit. The team likes his potential on defense, as well.

Note: This class can get a lot better. Second-round pick Tank Carradine, a defensive lineman , and fourth-round pick, running back Marcus Lattimore, missed last year with torn ACLs. Both were considered first-round picks had they been healthy. Both are expected to be healthy in 2014, and have a lot of potential.

Conclusion: This looks to be a strong class after a mostly wasted 2012 draft. This class is deep with long-term potential, especially if McDonald takes the next step and Carradine and Lattimore can stay healthy.
The cornerback position was one of the San Francisco 49ers' more evolving, fascinating positions in 2013 and promises to be interesting as the team builds its 2014 roster.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the 49ers use a high draft pick to develop a young player at the position. Let’s take a look at the players at the position from the 2013 team and where they stand.

Tramaine Brock: He has the most clarity of any cornerback on the roster. He was awarded with a four-year, $16 million deal in November and had a breakout season.

Prediction: Starter

Tarell Brown: He is a free agent. He said he wants to return. I could see Brown exploring the open market, but I can also see him coming back. Last year, there were several cornerbacks that got less than what they expected in free agency. If the market is the same this year -- there is no reason to think it won’t be -- the 49ers might be able to bring the solid player back at a team-friendly deal.

Prediction: He returns after surveying market.

Carlos Rogers: He may be a candidate for release. He will be 33 and is due $6 million. The 49ers had success in the playoffs when Rogers was hurt. I think they may take this chance to get younger and cheaper unless Rogers agrees to come back at a much-reduced price.

Prediction: Released.

Perrish Cox: He bounced on and off the team’s roster. He was signed for the playoffs when Rogers was hurt and he played well. A restricted free agent, he will have a chance to grow in the program.

Prediction: Gets chance to make the team in training camp.

Eric Wright: When he was signed last summer, it appeared Wright could have a big role. But his role diminished as the season went on and he was a healthy scratch in Seattle. There were rumblings the team was unhappy with his preparation later in the season. If he is re-signed, it likely won’t be at anything more the minimum.

Prediction: Does not return.

Darryl Morris: The undrafted rookie was solid on special teams. He could have a future.

Prediction: See Cox.

Chris Culliver: He missed all of the season with a torn ACL. He will be healthy in 2014 and he will play. He is a solid nickel performer.

Prediction: Key member of rotation.

The unlikely story of Darryl Morris

November, 7, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Did anyone ever think the San Francisco 49ers would keep Darryl Morris ahead of Nnamdi Asomugha?

Essentially, the rookie cornerback is the reason the 49ers cut Asomugha, who two years ago was considered one of the NFL's top cornerbacks. The team was bringing back cornerback Eric Wright from the non-football injury list this week. Originally, Morris looked like a prime candidate to be released.

The Texas State product was activated from the practice squad this season. He seemed like like a dime-a-dozen bottom-of-the-roster player. Then, he started making play after play on special teams.

Morris quickly went from roster fodder to a player who has cemented his role. With Morris' play demanding he be active, Asomugha's role with the team further diminished. Instead of keeping Asomugha as injury insurance, the 49ers opted to keep a player who was producing.

Morris admits his journey has been unexpected, but he is grateful.

“I've always been the underdog,” said Morris, who had to send out his own tape to try to lure a college scholarship. “Nothing in my football career has come easy. I know I had to work hard and I feel very blessed to be in this situation.”

If he keeps making plays, his place in San Francisco will only become more secure.
LONDON – The San Francisco 49ers roster is about to change.

The 6-2 49ers -- who have won five straight games going into their bye week -- are poised to get much better. They have six players who are likely to come off various different injury/illness lists including linebacker Aldon Smith, receivers Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree, cornerback Eric Wright, rookie defensive lineman Tank Carradine and rookie linebacker Nick Moody.

The 49ers will have to subtract from the 53-man roster with each activation. It will be interesting because this is a deep roster and some good, young players will be out. But that’s the trouble with having a good team. There’s no doubt the 49ers will get markedly better with the return of most of these players.

Here are some candidates to be removed from the roster: Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, receivers Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton (only if he is put on the injured reserve because his foot is not responding), linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, No. 3 quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs.

The most likely to go are Asomugha, Moore and Cunningham. They have not had a role in the past several weeks.

Complicating matters (again, which is a positive in the big picture) is the special teams coverage units are much improved. So players like Kassim Osgood, Bubba Ventrone, Darryl Morris, Nate Stupar and Anthony Dixon will be difficult to cut even though their role is nearly all special teams. The 49ers know improved special teams make them much more dangerous and that’s difficult to tinker with.

The roster roulette will likely start to occur next week. Manningham, Wright and Carradine all must be activated by early next week.

Coverage units continue to dominate

October, 23, 2013
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LONDON -- One of the reasons the San Francisco 49ers are 5-2 and on a four-game winning streak is they have developed into a three-phase team.

Not only are the 49ers’ offense and defense playing well, but the special-teams units (particularly the coverage teams) are becoming dominant. That is crucial since the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl with weak coverage units last season. Improving special teams was a point of emphasis in the offseason and is it working out well for the 49ers. The unit has been spectacular during the four-game winning streak. It is led by terrific holdover C.J. Spillman, key veteran additions Kassim Osgood and Bubba Ventrone and rookie Darryl Morris.

It seems coach Jim Harbaugh raves about the unit on a weekly basis. The kick coverage unit is allowing 20.7 yards per return. Last year, the 49ers allowed 26.9 yards per return and it allowed a kick return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl loss to Baltimore. On punts, the unit is allowing 5.7 yards per return after allowing 10.5 yards per return last season.

Coaches always preach the importance of special teams. The 49ers’ success this season is an example why.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Observed in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers' 31-17 win over the Tennessee Titans:

Jones
Kaepernick
Read-option returns: 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had 68 yards on 11 carries using the read-option offense. It was the most the 49ers used it this season. Kaepernick said it was because the Titans gave the 49ers opportunities to use it.

Praise for Morris: Rookie cornerback Darryl Morris has been one of several young 49ers who have played well. He is making a huge impact on a strong special teams. He caused a fumble that resulted in a Kassim Osgood touchdown in the fourth quarter. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said watching Morris on the play was like watching “an arrow go through snow.” Although Eric Wright is potentially coming off the physically unable to perform list in the next couple of weeks, there is no chance Morris will be cut. It could be another sign veteran Nnamdi Asomugha will be released. He has been a healthy scratch the past two weeks.

Aldon Smith update: Harbaugh gave some incremental news on Smith. Harbaugh said he is hopeful Smith can play this season. He said he is hearing Smith is making progress in treatment. Harbaugh said the plan is for Smith to be back at team facility from alcohol treatment in the next couple of weeks. The 49ers are 4-0 since the star pass-rusher went into treatment 27 days ago.

Homecoming: Several 49ers are from the Tennessee area and many players had a lot of family there. Harbaugh said the mother of rookie receiver Quinton Patton cooked for the team Saturday night. Harbaugh said Smith’s mother was at the game as well.

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