Posted: 6:18 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, 2013
By James Brady
Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.
The cornerback position might just be the weakest position on the San Francisco 49ers' roster. Despite the unit as a whole probably exceeding expectations in each of the past two seasons, whether it be Carlos Rogers experiencing a career revival or Chris Culiver blanketing the odd superstar receiver here or there, it's been underwhelming in comparison to the rest of the roster.
It looks like the position will survive for another season, but we're at multiple crossroads. Culliver could go in either direction at this point, Perrish Cox isn't going to capture that pre-career-derailing controversy hype, Rogers may only have another season or two left in him and Tarell Brown just refuses to come into his own.
Enter Nnamdi Asomugha, the once great and recently-almost-forgotten cornerback who came to the 49ers as a free agent signee in April. Asomugha was absolutely the best cornerback in the league during his time with the Oakland Raiders, often securing an entire side of the field. The man's interception and passes defensed numbers plummeted because quarterbacks often refused to even throw to his entire half of the field.
Then he went to the Philadelphia Eagles, probably hung his head in shame when whats-his-face called them the "Dream Team," and proceeded to be used totally wrong. Whatever the reason, Asomugha had two-straight underwhelming seasons before hitting free agency to almost no fanfare.
Asomugha is 31 years old, and will turn 32 in less than a month. He's lost a step, regardless of how the Eagles did or did not use him over two years. But he's with the 49ers now and it's not a tough cornerback depth chart to climb up. Let's look at what we can expect out of him next season.
What to expect in 2013
Asomugha is competing for his spot on the roster and a starting role. He's started essentially his entire career, and if it's true that his down years had more to do with how poorly the Philadelphia Eagles used him and less about him losing a step, then expecting Asomugha to get one of the starting jobs is not all-that far-fetched.
What you can expect out of Asomugha is a very solid cover corner who will probably be kept away from the quick-twitch slot guys. When the 49ers play the Seattle Seahawks, he certainly wouldn't be covering Percy Harvin. But can he shut down Sidney Rice at this point in his career? I tend to think so.
If Asomugha's body allows him, he has the skillset to unseat either Rogers or Brown, though Culliver is likely safe as the nickel corner who sees spot treatment against certain receivers. You can expect Nnamdi's name to not be called for much of the season, and that's a good thing, but if recent play is any indication, we might see him beaten by speedier receivers a few times in 2013.
Odds of making the roster
My personal feeling is that Asomugha will definitely be on the roster and will definitely be a starter. It's one of the few times in my sports fandom that I've elected to go the optimist route as opposed to pessimist. But realistically, Asomugha is competing for a spot on the roster. His job -- not just starting job -- is on the line in training camp and preseason.
The biggest fact in support of this: Asomugha's contract isn't guaranteed. He's a big name, and some thought he'd still have the pull to use that name to get a decent contract, but he's not costing much at all, and the 49ers can cut him if he's not working out.
That said, he's also not realistically a "longshot", either. I'd think that most believe Asomugha has a good shot at making the roster. It's certainly not an "out there" suggestion.