After being released by the Eagles, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is getting a fresh start with the 49ers. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
The past two seasons were rough ones for Nnamdi Asomugha.
After eight stellar seasons with the Raiders in which the cornerback was twice a first-team All-Pro pick and three times a Pro Bowler, his stock plummeted with the Eagles and he was released after last season.
When the 49ers signed him this offseason, nothing was guaranteed but the chance to earn playing time and contribute.
After his first week in offseason training activities (OTAs), however, the performance of the 31-year-old has been encouraging.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Kevin Lynch reported that Asomugha “showed well.”
“Asomugha often latched on quickly to the receivers he was covering and he muscled them," he wrote. "However, he had difficulty sustaining coverage on longer plays, which isn’t surprising at age 31.”
Lynch noted that Asomugha often was paired against wide receiver Quinton Patton, a fourth-round pick in the recent draft. Patton initially was “engulfed” by the cornerback before eventually breaking free.
Patton told Lynch that Asomugha is “very long” and “very quick.”
The starting corners for the 49ers are still penciled in as Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. But because the team plays a lot of nickel packages with three cornerbacks, it’s believed Asomugha will be battling third-year pro Chris Culliver for playing time. Returning corners Perrish Cox and Tramaine Brock also are in the mix.
Rogers, who says he’s been told he is still a starter, says he’s taking nothing for granted.
“There’s going to be competition for cornerback,” he told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “(Asomugha) is going to have a big role. They didn’t bring him in to sit on the bench.”
Rogers said the competition is no doubt going to be felt by all the defensive backs, and he’s going to take nothing for granted.
“I go in each and every day thinking someone can take my job,” he said.
Asomugha is taking the same approach.
“I don’t know a season I’ve ever gone in that I didn’t feel I had something to prove,” he told reporters. “I’ve had a chip on my shoulder every year because of the adversity I went through in Philadelphia. It’s always been a part of my game – coming in and showing what I can do. Now, being able to be here, start fresh with them, it’s a great opportunity.”
Sando noted that the 49ers likely will use Asomugha against certain types of receivers – the bigger, stronger types such as Sidney Rice and Larry Fitzgerald – rather than against smaller, quicker slot receivers. Sando wrote that Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. says the Niners “will be smarter” than the Eagles when it comes to using Asomugha “properly.” With a veteran defensive unit already in place, the Niners can afford to use Asomugha in situations that best suit his talents.
Plus, the 49ers have signed Asomugha for a reported $1.35 million, a relatively inexpensive deal. They haven’t risked much for what could be a big reward if he plays well in 2013.
“This is a no-risk deal for the 49ers,” wrote Sando. “They can’t lose by signing Asomugha to such a reasonable contract, but they have not won on the deal, at least not yet.”
Early reports, however, are encouraging.