Like many of his fellow defensive teammates on the San Francisco 49ers, Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers wants to master Vic Fangio’s complete system.
The starting cornerback who re-signed this offseason for four more seasons in San Francisco, said on Wednesday that he wants to get a better understanding of his defensive teammates’ full responsibilities now that they’re all experiencing a second season under the respected defensive coordinator’s guidance.
It’s important especially for Rogers, who lines up inside as the team’s nickel cornerback against multiple receiver formations.
“Nickel is something tough,” admitted Rogers, a 6-foot, 192-pound cornerback who recorded a career-high six interceptions for the 49ers last season. “You have to know crossing routes, working with the linebackers, sometimes they take the routes deep. There’s a lot of stuff. Sometimes you’re blitzing, sometimes you may have a run gap.”
Fangio considers the position to be a linebacker-type of role. Rogers, fearless when it comes to tackling, thrived in such a role, posting 57 tackles and 18 pass breakups in 2011.
Rogers performed well in the role because of his quickness, Fangio said.
“There’s a lot of short area routes that you got to be able to react to and play,” said Fangio, who saw his defense force 38 takeaways in 2011. “He’s got the intelligence because, really, everything he learns as corner has no carry over to the nickel. He’s actually playing a linebacker position and he has the intelligence and the football instincts to be able to play all those new zones and all new techniques that he has to play in there.
“He’s got a really good understanding, as you would think a veteran would, but some guys never master it. He’s got a good understanding of what the offenses are trying to do from route concepts and he has good anticipation.”
It’s not only Rogers, who’s thriving in the nickel role. Newcomer Perrish Cox, a 6-foot, 198-pound cornerback who signed with the 49ers this offseason after being out of football in 2011, has also embraced the challenge of playing as a “linebacker” cornerback, as Fangio put it.
Cox has also been in Rogers’ ear throughout practice in search of last-minute tips.
“Every day he asks me something, ‘Los, where should I be? Should I be inside or outside?’” Rogers said.
Sharing information is no problem for the 49ers defensive backs. Rogers sees the group being competitive, but close at the same time.
“We’re very talented,” Rogers added. “In Washington, I played with a lot of guys who had names. But these guys here are a tight group, regardless of the names. This group here sticks together, no matter the situation. We’re trying to get better each and every day and that’s why this group is so tight. Even the young guys, asking the older guys, ‘What should I do on this play?’”
Fangio feels comfortable with his depth at corner, as well as Cox’s progression to this point. Fangio also likes the depth the defense has at its unique nickel role. Behind Rogers and Cox, starting cornerback Tarell Brown and undrafted rookie safety Michael Thomas (who played one season under Fangio at Stanford) are the four names atop the depth chart.
Despite having the least experience at nickel corner, Fangio likes Cox’s willingness to learn and compete at the same time.
“He’s done well,” Fangio said of Cox, once a starting cornerback for the Denver Broncos. “He’s done a good job playing the nickel position for us. Same thing (as Rogers), he’s got good instincts, he’s got good short area quickness, can feel the routes and he’s a capable corner also. It’s critical you have those guys because when teams will put four wide receivers on the field, you need two of them then. So hopefully we can develop three or four of them.”
The 49ers cornerbacks know there are opportunities to play a lot this season with many teams on the regular season schedule utilizing multiple receiver looks. That being said, the pecking order will work itself out.
“It’s equal opportunity for everybody,” Rogers said. “I don’t know who are going to be the top-four corners, or the top-five. We’re preparing anytime for whatever position we’re going to be in.”
Tags: Carlos Rogers, Michael Thomas, Perrish Cox, Tarell Brown, Vic Fangio
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