Tony Parrish remains the strongest member of the secondary, and coincidentally plays strong safety. Parrish has been nothing but solid since joining the 49ers. The team will bank on his leadership and experience to help solidify the secondary. Mike Rumph will make the transition from cornerback to free safety this off-season. Rumph had been growing nicely into his corner position, but the departure of Ronnie Heard, leaves the 49ers thin at free safety, and Rumph has the athleticism and prototypical body type to play the position. The 49ers believe he can be a better safety because of his size, which does at time impede his ability in pass coverage. Personally, I feel Rumph was really coming into the corner position nicely, and question whether the team is making the right move here. Following this transition during training camp will be among my top priorities.
Dwaine Carpenter and Keith Lewis will compete for the backup safety positions. The team could go with four safeties on the active roster to account for less depth at the corner position. Also, both players, Carpeneter in particular are standout special team’s players. Mike Adams will try and fit in wherever he can, but is more likely a backup corner, and Arnold Parker will be fighting an uphill battle to make the squad.
Ahmed Plummer will return as the most veteran corner. He is pencilled in to start at cornerback, but his injuries in recent years do not make him untouchable. Plummer will have to show the 49ers they can count on him, to secure his position. Shawntae Spencer had a very nice rookie season last year. The team expects him to make the jump from nickel to starting corner in place of Mike Rumph. Both these corners will see competition from newcomer Willie Middlebrooks, acquired in the Engleberger trade. Middlebrooks is a former first round pick who has struggled to stay healthy and have an impact while in the NFL. Still the 49ers see him fitting as at least the third cornerback.
Rayshun Reed and Joselio Hanson received some quality play time last season. The two corners will battle it out to provide depth in the secondary. They will also compete with Mike Adams, and draft picks Daven Holly, and Derrick Johnson.
The 49ers need to find help in their secondary. This is sure to be a main area of focus during the summer. There will be a lot of competition at every spot except strong safety, and thus, this should be one of the most exciting areas to watch this summer.