After a breakout season in 2013, this was going to be the year Tramaine Brock cemented his status as a top-flight NFL cornerback.
Brock, however, suffered a turf toe injury in the season-opening victory over the Cowboys and hasn’t played since. Though the Niners secondary had a couple of rough games in losses to the Bears and Cardinals, it’s rebounded to be a strength in consecutive victories over the Eagles and Chiefs.
In fact, the 49ers defense ranks fourth in the NFL in opponent passer rating. Quarterbacks playing the 49ers have a passer rating in 2014 of just 78.0. That’s even slightly better than the team’s 2013 mark of 78.6. Plus, over the past three games, the rating is just 70.9.
San Francisco also ranks seventh in the NFL in passing defense, allowing just 209 yards per game
Even though the 49ers have just five sacks – tied for 26th worst in the NFL – the secondary has played well and also pulled down six interceptions.
One reason is the play of cornerback Perrish Cox.
Cox, who was expected to serve as an extra defensive back in the dime package this season, has moved into Brock’s cornerback spot and excelled. In the victory over the Chiefs this past Sunday, Cox had an interception, batted away two passes and had three tackles. For the season he has three interceptions, 10 passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and 13 tackles.
The 6-foot, 190-pound fourth-year cornerback from Oklahoma State – who also played well in the postseason last year – has been a lifesaver for the 49ers defense. And when Brock returns the quality and flexibility he’ll give defensive coordinator Vic Fangio should be valuable. Cox could take over Chris Culliver’s starting cornerback spot.
Recently, Cox said he’s up for playing anywhere.
“Dime, the nickel, you know, safety and everything,” he told Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. “I know it all, so I pay attention and keep taking notes on all that.”
Head coach Jim Harbaugh said he’s not surprised by what Cox has done.
“We thought Perrish, coming into the season, had tremendous value to our football team,” Harbaugh said. “Like the way he’s playing, very much so. It bodes well for our football team.”
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio this week said in a radio interview that he could see this summer that Cox could be an excellent piece on defense in 2014. Fangio said Cox is well-respected by his teammates and coaches and is taking advantage of the opportunity he’s been given to excel.
“He was a guy that, midway through training camp or a little after that, I went in and told Jim, we’ve got to keep this guy," he said. "He’s got to be on our team. And lo and behold, Brock gets hurt 20 plays into the first game, and he’s been out there every play since. And he’s done well.”