When a team like the San Francisco 49ers goes from a 6-10 record one season to a 13-3 record in the next season, the strength of schedule is assured to get tougher. For the 49ers in 2012 that is certainly the case as the team will face the Packers, Lions, Giants, Saints and Patriots in five of their 16 games. What those five teams have in common are elite quarterbacks who finished in the top-five of passing yards in 2011. Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford all threw for over 5,000 yards while Eli Manning finished with 4,933 yards and Aaron Rodgers with 4,643.
With how well the 49ers’ secondary did last season, they will be tested and will need to duplicate there numbers from last season, when they finished with 23 interceptions and 124 passes defended to come away with a winning record against the five teams.
The 49ers’ secondary was anchored last season by cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Dashon Goldson who had six interceptions each which led the team. Rogers is back after signing a contract extension, however, Goldson is M.I.A. as he holds out for a better long-term contact. Goldson is currently the 49ers franchise tagged player and he has not participated in offseason workouts. The 49ers are ready to go with either veteran C.J. Spillman or rookie Trenton Robinson should Goldson continue to holdout. If that is the case Spillman will most likely be the man starting in place of Goldson. Even though Spillman has been in the NFL for four seasons, he has started only one game. With the 49ers going up against five elite quarterbacks, we can expect them to try to exploit the inexperience should Goldson remain a holdout. The other starting safety is Donte Whitner who can pick up the slack in Goldson’s absence as well.
At cornerback Rogers showed he was the shutdown type player the 49ers lacked for years on defense. Rogers will be able to cover the No. 1 receivers on the Packers, Lions, Giants, Saints and Patriots, but the problem is all five of the teams have deep depth at wide receiver. This is a problem for the 49ers because they lack depth and experience behind Rogers. Tarell Brown did a great job in 2011 with four interceptions and 40 tackles but he is only entering his second season as a starter. The other backups at cornerback are Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock, and both have limited experience with zero starts between them. Culliver was rookie last season and Brock has only played in 14 games in two seasons.
Luckily, the five games against these quarterbacks are mostly spread out over the season. The exceptions are the Packers (@Green Bay) and Lions (home) who the 49ers face in the first two weeks of the season. The 49ers go up against the Giants in week six (home), Saints in week 12 (@New Orleans) and Patriots in week 15 (@New England).
Check Niner Noise’s Week-By-Week Breakdown of the San Francisco 49ers’ 2012 Schedule