It’s not exactly certain how the San Francisco 49ers will use Perrish Cox this season, but it now appears a lock that he will be used in some way.
After playing well against the Broncos Sunday in the team’s third exhibition game – and picking off his second pass of the preseason – the former Denver cornerback assuredly will be part of the team’s opening-day roster on Sunday, September 9, in Green Bay against the Packers.
Cox, who signed with the 49ers this offseason, intercepted a pass from backup quarterback Caleb Hanie in the second quarter of Sunday’s 29-24 win over the Broncos.
It now appears Cox will be the No. 4 corner (battling Tramaine Brock), behind starters Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, and No. 3 Chris Culliver, who was a rookie last season. He also could be the nickelback in passing situations.
Going into Sunday’s game, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had said he wasn’t quite sure yet how Cox will figure into the Niners’ defensive schemes this season, only that he will play “some how, some way.”
Cox’s flexibility, performance this summer and experience – he started nine games for the Broncos in 2010 but sat out all of last season because of allegations of sexual assault (for which he was cleared) – should earn him a spot on the 53-man roster.
Wrote ESPN.com’s Mike Sando, who blogs about the NFC West: “The 49ers’ secondary struggled against (Peyton) Manning, but when backup Caleb Hanie came into the game, 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox stood out right away. Cox picked off a pass, his second interception of the preseason. Cox wasn’t perfect as a tackler, but he appears to have created a role for himself within the 49ers’ sub packages.”
And, in a 2012 schedule in which the 49ers secondary will be constantly tested by some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL – starting with the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers in Game 1 – secondary depth will be important for San Francisco.
Cox was a fifth-round pick by Denver in 2010 out of Oklahoma State and played 15 games for the Broncos, picking off one pass, defensing 14 others and making 57 tackles. The former OSU Cowboy also returned both kickoffs and punts, just as he did in college.
Cox told reporters that “whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it” with the 49ers. After a year away from football – he was one of the last Broncos’ cuts in September of 2011 – he had to deal with his legal issues while being unemployed.
Now, he’s just eager to show what he can do and win a job.
After picking off a pass against the Vikings in the first exhibition game, Fangio said Cox has practiced and played very well.
“He’s the same as he’s been all summer,” Fangio said. “Perrish did well in the game the other night with his opportunities. He’s doing well in the nickel and he’s doing well at cornerback.”
Rogers, who went to the Pro Bowl last season, says he’s made it a point to help Cox adjust to his new role and learn his coverages. He says Cox “is progressing every day.”
Cox said the tough times he worked through last year have made him a better player and person.
“It was tough for me last year, as far as sitting on the sidelines and watching,” he told the Associated Press. “Being out for a year, you kind of look back on what you could have done. But it was a positive for me as far as learning what I needed to work on, and also everything that I needed to work on off the field. The whole thing was a learning experience.”