While position battles heat up at training camps across the NFL, much of the attention is placed on the snap breakdown at particular spots on the field.
Tarell Brown is a prime example of the importance in getting those reps. Just ask Vic Fangio.
“I don’t think he played a whole lot prior to last year,” the 49ers defensive coordinator said as he met the media Saturday morning. “From day one he was focused, he was learning and he was competing … I think he just took advantage of a new opportunity. Obviously when Shawntae Spencer got hurt early in camp and he missed all of camp that gave (Brown) a new opportunity and he took advantage of it. Then we just left him in there because he was playing so good.”
Brown, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound cornerback, took his chance early last camp and ran with it starting all 16 regular season games in 2011 after just five spot starts in his previous four years in the NFL.
“Patience in this league is a lot harder when you are used to being the guy,” Brown said. “A lot of times coming from a big university you are known to be that guy and when you come to the NFL a lot of times you have to wait your turn.”
Brown’s patience paid off a year ago as he notched career-highs with 46 tackles and four interceptions playing a pivotal role in the 49ers defense, which finished second in the NFL allowing just 14.3 points-per-game.
Brown has changed little in his approach this camp from what allowed him to break out in 2011.
“When you come into training camp you are fighting for your position,” the sixth-year cornerback said. “I think me and Carlos (Rogers) felt like we are still battling against each other and against the young guys to get better every day.”
Members of the San Francisco secondary see a fair share of balls thrown their way as many opponents seek to avoid running the ball inside against the team’s 3-4 scheme featuring All-Pros Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Justin Smith.
“When you have a front like we have that can dominate all across the board … we expect them to throw the ball,” Brown said. “Not too many teams would like to run against that front. They have a nasty attitude about them and they play the game the right way.”
Brown has grown accustomed to facing pass-heavy attacks, a fact that is not lost on Fangio.
“The corner is on an island many times and he knows that and accepts that challenge and responsibility,” the second-year 49ers defensive coordinator said in reference to Brown. “He has become a real pro at his position. He is one of those guys out there that can really help our young guys.”
It’s easy to see why Brown has become such a respected corner when hearing him discuss the way he prepares for pass coverage.
“I approach every week as I am playing against great receivers,” Brown said. “You are in the NFL so you wouldn’t be starting out there on the field if you weren’t a good player. I just go out there and just try to break these guys down, see what they like, see what they don’t like and try and make it hard and difficult for the quarterback to get them the ball.”
Brown can expect to see a heavy dose of passes next season as the 49ers will face a tough regular season schedule featuring five of the six quarterback selections to the 2012 Pro Bowl.
“I think we will talk about it when it gets a little closer,” Brown said. “We know that we have a tough schedule ahead of us, but right now we are focusing on getting better. We can’t look too far ahead. Right now our focus is this upcoming practice and just to get better.”
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