Nnamdi Asomugha SF 49ers training campI missed the first half of Vic Fangio’s press conference due to security issues (there was no “all camp” pass waiting for me at the front gate, and the guy had to write up a day pass which for whatever reason became a 10-minute process), so I arrived too late to hear the defensive coordinator’s thoughts on the cornerback situation in the wake of Chris “Cully in da hospital” Culliver’s ACL tear. Luckily, the team provides full transcripts of the coaches’ pressers.

What have you been seeing from Nnamdi? Is the fact that you have him here does that kind of lessen the blow of losing Culliver?

“Well we didn’t really know what we were getting when we got Nnamdi. He’s had some good days out here and some days where you weren’t sure if he was going to still have it. I think we’re kind of in between with him right now. Hopefully he’ll be able to still have some gas left in his tank to go out there and play like he did prior to going to Philadelphia. So, I think the jury is still out there.”

Is some of that how a player’s used? Is there any part of that to it or do you just either have it or you don’t?

“I think there’s some of that. But, Nnamdi is at this stage too in his career where some guys start losing, their physical skills start to diminish. We just have to see if that’s entering into his picture too or not.”

Points to Fangio for being honest, and points deducted from me for this rushing-to-judgment tweet from yesterday right after news broke that Culliver was carted off the field with tears in his eyes:

Not so fast, me from 24 hours ago. You see, Asomugha always seems to be around the ball during these offseason practices. That has led to some occasional interceptions and tipped passes for the former All-Pro corner. But Fangio’s comments tell me a few things:

  • Fangio went into this hoping Asomugha would play more like he did in Oakland than he did as a Philadelphia Eagle.
  • Fangio would prefer to see a young guy step up instead of having another 30+ guy on the field at the same time as Carlos Rogers.
  • One quote in particular (“I think we’re kind of in between with him right now.”) probably means he isn’t playing well enough currently to make the 53-man roster. Pretty candid stuff from Fangio.

So now it sounds like the Eric Wright option is back on the table, but the odds-on favorite to grab the No. 3 cornerback spot at this point may be Tramaine Brock. Fangio wasn’t exactly predicting a breakout season for Brock, but at least he didn’t come close to saying he’s washed up.

What do you like about Tramaine?

“He’s got good quickness. He’s got good speed. He’s got good ball skills. He just hasn’t played a whole lot prior to us getting here. He hasn’t played a whole lot since we’ve gotten here. Now may be an opportunity for him to go out there and show what he’s got and take this job. If you remember the start of the 2011 season, he did start the season playing some in our sub package. Then, I believe he got dinged a little bit, and that’s when Cully took over.”

If he hadn’t have gotten that hand injury, do you think things would have been different for him? It seems like he kind of sunk to the bottom because he had to deal with the hand and other people kind of–?

“Right, it gave Cully an opportunity and Cully went out there and did a great job and ceased it and took it and kept it. Now it’s an opportunity for Brock.”

How are their skill-sets different if at all?

“Cully’s bigger, obviously, number one. Probably the most glaring difference.”

In a perfect world, all of your corners are fast, flexible, quick, smart and big, with excellent “ball skills.” Asomugha is a big corner, but there’s no denying that Brock is a better option against faster receivers. Brock will turn 25 in a few weeks, and the 49ers didn’t tender him a contract before the season so he could keep playing special teams. Well, that’ll probably remain one of Brock’s duties … but now he’ll get a chance to see some time on the field this season. Culliver played 63% of the defensive snaps last year.