Cause for concern in Niners’ secondary

San Francisco's defensive backfield is returning very little in terms of proven production heading into the 2015 season.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Cause for concern in Niners’ secondary

The 49ers released cornerback Chris Cook this week after a short stay with the team. At his best, Cook would have been a starter for the 49ers in 2015, but we have never seen Cook at his best for very long. He joins Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver as cornerbacks who were on the 49ers roster last year but are no longer with the team.

Going into camp, Tramaine Brock is a clear favorite for one of the outside cornerback spots. In 2013 Brock was excellent with five interceptions and nine passes defensed, but he missed nearly all of 2014. Now that Cook is gone, the competition for the other outside spot is down to Shareece Wright and Dontae Johnson.

While Wright is the favorite to start, we have liked Johnson more based on what we’ve seen so far. In 2014, Wright was our third-lowest-graded cornerback in coverage. He allowed an NFL Passer Rating of 95.5 when quarterbacks threw his way, and had 11 penalties called on him (tied for sixth-most among cornerbacks). Johnson played well as a rookie as a part-time player, but in the last three weeks he started, and in those games he allowed a troubling 204 receiving yards on 15 catches and two touchdowns.

Throw in the fact that slot cornerback Jimmie Ward allowed an NFL Passer Rating of 138.2 last year as a rookie, and there is reason to be concerned. It’s a young group of players who could improve, but they haven’t yet proven they can be effective on a defense that is trying to replace several key contributors.

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

  • Amos McCannell

    Our D-line will mask a lot of those issues. Not to mention, think we are going to be bringing some serious heat with the outside backers we have currently.

    • corey

      aaaaaand its gone.

      • AMAC

        Yup SMH

  • Dietrich Riley

    Yah funny that Stat on how poor he is , takes into account all corners who played 25% of nfl snaps but if you look at cbs who played 800 snaps, wright allowed only 41 catches. Good for 6th overall do we can all skew stats

    • PetEng

      I’m not sure there is a bigger divergence in grade to stats as Wright. He’s coverage stats appear to be legit (top 1/3rd of qualifying players).

  • Michael

    Releasing Cook shows faith in the young corners that they have on the roster. Strong pass rush and veteran safeties will help. Ward needs to prove he was worthy of a #1 pick, and learned from his meltdown trying to cover the Bears
    Brandon Marshall.

  • Das Dweeb

    I’m not so sure it’s only between Wright and Johnson for the RCB spot. They are high on Acker and Reaser. Also, Johnson showed a lot for a rookie being thrown into the fire, for a defense that refused to rush the passer. This defense promises to make more liberal use of its blitzing talent, which will sometimes aid and sometimes expose the young secondary. My bet is that Culliver is so-so and Cox is uneven (in the midst of his hot run, Fangio said he was *finally* staying focused). The question, pass-defensewise, is how the likely dramatically weaker middle will affect it without PW or Borland, Bowman returning from injury, and Wilhoite now hurt. Will middle dump-offs now kill us? Will TEs rule the middle? And will they avoid ever putting Jimmy Ward on a 6’5″ receiver?

    • Nomo73

      Moody is a better ILB than Willhoite and he and Bowman will be terrors in the middle.

      • sean

        Ya moody is tearing up camp..hes a thumper with coverage ability..Wilhoite better get his rear back into camp, or risk losing his spot.

  • Frank

    How about a monster pass rush that will help and secondary? Also throw in a elite set of safeties?? Not worried about he secondary one bit.

    • Tim Edell

      It is going to be a very long year for the 49ers….6-10

  • zinn21 zinn21

    From what I hear about the Defensive line there may not be a pass that gets by them. A bull rushing tsunami..

  • sidbrown210

    PFF is great for projecting teams that have little roster turnover. In essence the “concern” is more borne out of them having little or NO data. If these were stocks yes, but players? Well I guess that’s why you hire coaches and scouts.

    • Mark Erickson

      What you say is absolutely true, however the fact that nearly the entire starting roster has changed and a new defensive coordinator is in place doesn’t encourage a perception that San Francisco’s defense will be playing at a very high level. History teaches us that with this amount of change the following season isn’t typically considered successful. If the talent is there, one or two seasons of being on the field with one another to gel probably needs to happen to field a productive unit.

  • Nomo73

    The “writer” has no clue as to the value of Kenneth Acker and Kevin Reaser. Think, man. They released Cook because the numerous remaining backs are BETTER.

  • sean

    Seriously..its a competition. Predicting that Cook would have been a starter, despite being cut is absolutely absurd..him being cut just shows how good the guys we have in camp are doing, despite Cook being a decent player..

    Many people predicted that the 2011 49ers secondary would be terrible, because they signed rogers and whitner as starters..suffice to say the secondary was fine, leading the league in int’s..

    We have more quality competition at this position than we ever have. Ward, Reaser, Jonhson, Acker, Brock and Wright..not to mention we just drafted Tartt to come in and play a joker role..

  • May 15th Prophecy

    NATHAN JAHNKE of Pro Football Focus didn’t do his homework, notice he don’t even mention the names of Kenneth Acker (who going to be one of the best CB in football) or Keith Reaser (just as good as Acker) or Tratt (who is going to be the best hybrid S in the game) simply put the 49ers have the best secondary in football because I haven’t even mention Betha or Reid (both pro bowlers)