The San Francisco 49ers secondary was excellent for most of 2012. Perhaps their biggest letdown came against the Patriots during Week 15 of the regular season, when they were almost outplayed in the second half of that game.
Some could even argue that their secondary gave up a bit too much to Joe Flacco in the first half of Super Bowl XLVII.
Despite those two or three halves of football, the 49ers secondary had the fourth-best ranking for pass defense last year. What about 2013?
The 49ers added a few new players to the secondary, so will they be better? Here is a quick review of the changes and a prediction for the 49ers pass defense in 2013.
Left Cornerback: No Change
2012 preseason depth: Carlos Rogers, Tramaine Brock, Perrish Cox
2013 projected depth: Carlos Rogers, Tramaine Brock, Perrish Cox
Right Cornerback: Upgraded
2012 preseason depth: Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver, Anthony Mosley
2013 projected depth: Nnamdi Asomugha, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver
Comment: The 49ers exchanged an undrafted free agent in Mosley for a first-round pick in Asomugha. Adding Asomugha for Mosley is quite an upgrade. Nnamdi may have lost a step but he can still play very good ball. The 49ers' starting secondary of Rogers and Asomugha is going to be hard to beat in 2013. Brock, Cox, Brown and Culliver could start on many NFL teams.
Strong Safety: No Change
2012 preseason depth: Donte Whitner, Trenton Robinson, Darcel McBath
2013 projected depth: Donte Whitner, Trenton Robinson, Darcel McBath
Free Safety: Upgraded
2012 preseason depth: Dashon Goldson, C.J. Spillman, Cory Nelms
2013 projected depth: Eric Reid, Craig Dahl, C.J. Spillman
Comment: Exchanging a former fourth-round safety, in Dashon Goldson, for a first-round pick, in Eric Reid, is a definite upgrade. Also, adding experienced Craig Dahl for an untested Cory Nelms—both undrafted free agents—is a plus.
Reid played at LSU and was a consensus First Team ESPN All-American. Goldson played at Washington and never made the All-American team. Here is Matt Miller’s evaluation of Goldson from March, 2012: “(Goldson) gives up a fair number of completions” and “misses way too many tackles.”
NFL.com evaluated Reid as a “tall, long safety with a solid overall build that is still getting stronger. All-around defender who can play the run and pass. Flashes excellent closing speed, pummels receivers after the catch when coming downhill and can get into the backfield if smelling out the play after the snap. Brings power into cut tackles, lowering his shoulder to stop running backs cold.”
The Bottom Line: Maybe The Best Secondary in Football
Last year the 49ers pass defense was ranked fourth in the NFL behind the Steelers, Jets and Broncos, according to ESPN.com. The Steelers let a great corner walk in Keenan Lewis, so their secondary is weaker despite drafting safety Thomas Shamarko in the fourth round. Darrelle Revis was a big loss for the Jets (despite his torn ACL), but drafting Dee Milliner in the first round will help (after his shoulder surgery heals). Denver signed corners Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. The Broncos should be better.
After bringing in upgrades in the form of Asomugha, Reid and Dahl, the San Francisco 49ers may put the best secondary on an NFL field in 2013. If not the best, their secondary will be nearly equivalent to the Denver Broncos.
Seattle's secondary of Sherman, Browner, Chancellor, and Thomas will continue to be stout in 2013. This year they added 36-year-old cornerback Antoine Winfield, but , like Nnamdi Asomugha, he has lost a step or two in the last three or four years. Seattle's improvements are almost as impressive as San Francisco's. The Niners could possibly start first-round draft picks at all four secondary positions. Yes, first-round picks are not a guarantee, but odds are...
Seattle's secondary should rank near the top with Denver and San Francisco.
The 49ers secondary will be tested this year by the likes of Aaron Rogers (Green Bay), Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) and Drew Brees (New Orleans), but it is a safe bet that they will be a strong unit and help the team to win Super Bowl XLVIII. Niners secondary coach Ed Donatell thinks so. And the Las Vegas odds-makers agree with him.
Here is a parting thought...Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown are among the league leaders (Top 15) in passes defended. Nnamdi Asomugha played free safety very well in college at Cal, taking advantage of his 4.45 speed. Perhaps Harbaugh could move Nnamdi back to his old postition while Eric Reid comes up to NFL speed? With Whitner, Spillman, Dahl, Rogers, and Brock to support, maybe this wouldn't be such a far-fetched idea!