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Torrey Smith beats Chris Culliver for a 56-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XLVII.
One of the biggest uncertainties facing the 2014 San Francisco 49ers is who will be the starting cornerback opposite Tramaine Brock.
With the departure of Tarell Brown to the Oakland Raiders, Chris Culliver will get the first crack at the job. Although not a superstar, Brown was a solid NFL corner. It remains to be seen whether Culliver can do as well or better than Brown.
The two biggest concerns surrounding Culliver are his complete recovery from a 2013 ACL injury that caused him to miss the entire season and secondly, his maturity level. According to Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio noted that Culliver's 2013 knee injury is "going to be a wild card in his progress."
Culliver is a very good athlete and has the physical tools to play cornerback in the NFL. He will need to prove to the 49ers that his knee is sound and he has the same speed, cutting ability and explosiveness he had prior to the injury. Training camp and preseason will be very important for Culliver.
The 49ers do not have a lot of depth at corner, so it will be critical that both Culliver and Brock stay healthy.
Culliver will also need to show more professionalism and maturity. In the past couple of years there have been several incidents that have placed Culliver in a very bad light.
Prior to the 49ers' Super Bowl game against the Ravens, Culliver made anti-gay remarks, which shifted the focus away from the team and squarely on him. He proceeded to have a terrible game in the Super Bowl and the distractions were likely a contributing factor.
Then, following the Super Bowl defeat, Culliver tried to deflect blame for a blown coverage on Torrey Smith's 56-yard scoring reception late in the second quarter.
It is never wise to lay blame on a teammate and safety Donte Whitner, from whom Culliver was expecting help, took offense. Whitner stated what his defensive assignement was on the play and put the responsibility right back in Culliver's lap. Culliver's initial comments were out of line, and even more so if he was, in fact, the one responsible for maintaining coverage on the play.
Then, only a few months ago, Culliver was involved in an alleged hit-and-run car accident. After trying to flee, Culliver also allegedly threatened another motorist that was trying to detain him.
David Fucillo of NinersNation.com has the latest on this case.
In addition to the off field problems that have dogged Culliver, he has also been a notorious trash talker and gotten himself in trouble with his overly aggressive play.
Trash talking is one thing, but it looks really stupid when you get beaten, then jump up in the face of the receiver who has just beaten you. If you are trash talking, you better be able to back it up, and therein lies the problem when Culliver insists on doing it.
His overaggressive style has also caused him to bite on hitches or out patterns. This undisciplined play also has resulted in too many personal-foul and unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties.
Culliver has the skill and athleticism to be a very good NFL cornerback. The key for the 49ers will be if his knee is sound and also if he can learn to be more of a professional. Culliver has yet to show the maturity it takes to be consistently successful both on and off the field.