Niners cornerback Tarell Brown breaks up a pass intended for the Falcons' Julio Jones in the NFC Championship Game last season. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
In a way, Tarell Brown this offseason has become the 49ers’ “other” cornerback.
Carlos Rogers, his starting mate at corner, has gone to the Pro Bowl. Nnamdi Asomugha, signed this offseason, is a former All-Pro who made a name for himself first at Cal and then with the Raiders.
And then there’s Brown, a fifth-round pick of the 49ers in 2007 out of Texas who won the starting job in 2011 and has played very well the past two seasons as his team has won back-to-back NFC West titles.
This offseason, Brown has almost been an afterthought in the 49ers secondary because of circumstances. First, San Francisco lost starting safety Dashon Goldson, then signed free-agent Craig Dahl as a replacement and used its No. 1 draft choice to take LSU safety Eric Reid.
The signing of Asomugha brought in a cornerback with a great resume and great name recognition.
Plus, Brown has spent most of this offseason away from Niners camp, choosing instead to work out near his home in Texas with a private trainer. That’s also helped put the focus on Asomugha as he adjusted to his new surroundings in workouts this spring.
Yet Brown is considered by many to be the 49ers best cornerback, and he aims to keep it that way.
Entering the final year of his contract, Brown wants to maintain his starting role and be an even better player in 2013.
Across the board, in fact, he says every 49er needs to improve in 2013 if the team wants to get where it wants to go. He – and every other player – “has to bump their level of play by 10 percent,” he said.
In Texas, he’s been concentrating on elevating his fitness and strength.
“For me, I wanted to do a different type of training to get my body ready,” he recently told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “Last year I feel my body broke down a bit at the end of the season.”
He came out to the 49ers' recent mandatory mini-camp and said he felt comfortable with all the new coverages put in place this offseason.
Even while in Texas, he’s been speaking with defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, who has sent him film to study, and he’s kept extensive notes.
“I picked the system up, all the new plays, didn’t have any mental breakdowns,” Brown told 49ers.com this week. “It was about getting back to football, making the checks, making the reads, making the calls. It felt good to be back out with my teammates.”
Going into this summer’s training camp, the 49ers have better depth at cornerback now with Brown and Rogers the starters, Asomugha and Chris Culliver as primary extra defenders, and Perrish Cox and Tramaine Brock also fighting for spots on the roster.
Statistics by Pro Football Focus indicate the best corner of the group is Brown. His passer rating allowed at right corner (76.77) is better than Rogers at left corner (89.3), Culliver at left corner (79.08) and Asomugha (121.0 overall at either outside corner spot). His 700 snaps at right corner also were a mark of durability.
There’s no doubt Brown will fight to keep his starting spot. He may be the “other” corner, but if he has another strong season as he did in 2012, he may be in line for a contract extension. A quote by Brown on the homepage of his website provides a window to his mindset:
“Since I’ve been in this league, I haven’t been given anything. With life as well; I’ve always had my obstacles. The ball hasn’t always been in my court, so I always look at it as – always be a fighter. Always know that if you compete on every play, if you compete in anything in life, you can get through it.”