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Where The 49ers Improved Part 1
May 2 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
This series of articles will look at areas the 49ers have improved on over the course of this off-season by way of the draft and free agency. The first volume takes a look at the team’s revamped defensive backfield.

It was no secret this off-season that the 49ers wanted to be able to compete with the Rams. To do that the team felt a significant improvement in the defensive backfield was necessary. The team made three significant moves in this area to improve its self.

The first move was to sign up safety Zack Bronson to a new long term deal. Bronson, the 49ers best safety last season, recorded seven interceptions after taking over for the injury plagued John Keith. The new contract will give the veteran Bronson the confidence he needs to take his game to the next level.

The next key move was signing Tony Parrish to replace Lance Schulters at strong safety. This move at the very least will break the team even. One Pro Bowl player for another, Parrish may be slightly quicker, but really, the importance here was that there shouldn’t be a drop off of talent from Schulters. Although Parrish had a scare last week having to remove a testicle that had a growth on it, he is expected to return to full health within a couple of weeks.

The final key addition to the 49ers defensive backfield was with the drafting of Mike Rumph in the first round. Rumph is a big corner who’s relatively fast. He will allow the team to match up with just about any three receiver set in the league. Jason Webster will take the quick receiver in the set, Rumph the big receiver, and Plummer the best receiver. The versatility of these three players should be a huge improvement over Rashad Holman, Anthony Parker and Ronnie Heard; though Holman is reportedly making good progress this off-season.

The 49ers have definitely upgraded this area of the team. The talent is now on the roster to match up with just about any receiving threat in the league. Coach Mariucci will have to be smart in how he uses the trio of cornerbacks, matching them up against certain players rather than aligning them to a side of a field. The difference should be quite evident early in the season.

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