49ers 2011 Season Review: Defensive Backs
In celebration of the 49ers remarkable turnover this season, Niner Noise has reviewed each position and handed out grades. Today also marks the one year anniversary of the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. Who would have thought the 49ers would be in the playoffs as a second seed and winners of the NFC West a year ago from today?
The 49ers season of revival in 2011 was engineered by Harbaugh as he brought in the right coaches, kept the rights one from the previous regime, and installed the offense, defense and special teams. No matter how good the coaches or the system a team sets up, you have to execute everything on the field when it counts. The 49ers at all positions this season accomplished this. A perfect storm of the right coaches, players peaking with career seasons that included players already on the roster, along with the free agents signed by the 49ers, came together to catapult them back into the playoffs. Here is a look back at the 49ers 2011 season:
Quarterbacks season reviewed by Eric Melendez
Wide receivers/tight ends season reviewed by Jason Bertolucci
Offensive line reviewed by Matt Hamm
Defense front-seven reviewed by Michael Hart
Running backs season reviewed by David Estrada
Special teams reviewed by Jared Quan
Click read more to view the Defensive Backs season review:
After a fantastic season of 49ers football I have chosen to take a look back at one of the most improved areas on the field for the Niners. The most changes to the defense came in the backfield with 11 Defensive Backs on the roster and 5 being new to the Niners this unit had a lot to learn in a short amount of time with little training camp early injuries and a key member signing on late after testing the waters in free agency. It is truly remarkable that this unit came together as fast as they did while under a new system. This group of DBs not only made a huge difference on for the defense but is a large part of the leagues best Special Teams unit.
As a whole the DBs accounted for 22 of the teams 23 interceptions the only other was by Patrick Willis. They also forced 2 fumbles and recovered 4 and scored 1 Touchdown. This unit also provided a large amount of tackles. The only major stat they did not contribute to was the sack total or did they. As a defensive unit the Niners choose not to blitz a lot if at all they would rather use different groups of 4 to rush the passer and rarely is a DB asked to blitz but you have to give them credit as they have done a solid job taking away the first reads for quarterbacks allowing the line time to get there so got give them some credit here.
Now for the not so good stuff as a unit they did well but they were hit with too many big plays. Ranked 16th against the pass can be misleading when teams are unable to run. The real problem was the plays of 40 or more in 2 of the Niners 3 loses on the season they were beaten down field multiple times in those games in the other loss it was poor tackling by the DBs that allowed drives to continue. This is a concern as the Niners are likely to face the best Offenses in football in the Playoffs.
Time to Look at the Players,
Dashon Goldson; To me he is the teams Defensive Enforcer following in the footsteps of Ronnie Lott, Jeff Fuller, and Tim McDonald the Niners finally have a guy that makes the big hits and timely plays as the past greats have. Dashon led the group in tackles intercepted 6 balls tied for 2nd most in league and put a fear into those that came his way. Who could forget the hit on Tampa Receiver Mike Williams. Earning a Pro Bowl spot this year is just the beginning of things for Dashon who once again will be a free agent.
Carlos Rogers; Also finished tied for 2nd with 6 interceptions on the year after having a reputation of having hands of stone Carlos came through and had the only pick six of the season and led the team with 18 passes defended. Carlos was more than just a cover guy as he led all corners on the team with 41 solo tackles. A key player this year and his understanding of the team defense concept has been the main reason for the groups success as corners of years past failed to understand.
Donte Whitner; Another free agent acquisition and another big time tackler on the team he finished fourth on the team just behind Goldson but he also led the team with 3 fumbles recovered. Did a fantastic job this year but I still see some errors that stand out mainly some missed tackles in the losses to the Ravens and Cardinals as well as being burned in the Dallas game. But a lot more good than bad over a 16 game season.
Tarell Brown; Coming out of college he was considered a risk for off field reasons therefore he dropped in the draft. Good thing for us as he has been a solid steady player on the defense and has gotten better each and every year. He earned the number 1 spot this year and I would say the competition at the position is quite good even beating out a solid starter of years past Tarell looks to man a side for many years to come. 36 tackles and 4 interceptions bode well for him but the way he read the play against the Rams and jumped the route he is getting very comfortable which is a good thing heading into the playoffs.
Chris Culliver; This rookie has got game wow he is big covers well and plays with an attitude his former college coach said he was ready for the NFL and he meant it. As a non starter Culliver had 33 tackles 7 passes defensed and 1 interception.
CJ Spillman; In his second stint with the Niners Spillman arguably could be considered the Special Teams MVP he is constantly in on the tackle on punt and kickoff teams with 17 tackles he leads all special teamers.
Reggie Smith; Another Special teams standout 15 tackles but has been a disappointment drafted high and has never really been able to crack the line up he covered for a couple guys with injuries but he will be fighting for a job next year.
Madieu Williams; A free agent pick up who was going to start at Free Safety until Dashon came back has played little but has a lot of experience and provides a lot of depth at the position.
Colin Jones; One of the fastest guys on the team and is a big contributor to the special teams cut once this year but brought back because of injuries. I would like to see what he can do on the field but that will have to wait to next year.
Tremaine Brock; For a second year guy he has really improved and is constantly pushing to be in the line up even though he has been passed on the depth chart by Spencer, Tramaine looks to have a bright future with the Niners.
Shawntae Spencer; While his season got started off on the wrong foot he is climbing back into a bigger role with the Defense. I have been puzzled all year by the fact that he can’t break into the starting line up as he has been the teams most consistent corner in years past. Yes Tarell is playing well and Culliver is making plays, Shawntae was the guy that would cover Larry Fitzgerald and all the other top receivers. I have a lot of confidence in him to do the job should we need him come playoff time.
As a group and the way they performed for the year I would give the DBs a B+ but when I include the play of the Special Teams personal I have to give them combined an A-. I don’t find the defensive ranking of 16th for yards as important as the takeaways and scoring this group has done an incredible job this year and will be under heavy pressure in the playoffs to prove it.
By Mike Zamora