Young 49ers cornerback Marcus Cromartie often feels overlooked.
That happens when you go undrafted out of college and have two more acclaimed cousins – Antonio Cromartie and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – who play the same position and have achieved star status in the NFL.
Marcus Cromartie, meanwhile, has bounced from the Chargers to the Browns and then the 49ers since coming into the league in 2013.
“As an undrafted player, your opportunities are smaller than that of a first- or second-rounder,” Marcus Cromartie told a reporter recently. “You’ve got to fit in where you get in and make the most of your opportunity.”
For now, it looks like Cromartie’s opportunity has arrived.
As the 3-7 49ers prepare for Sunday’s game against the 8-2 Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium (1:05 p.m. kickoff), Cromartie is likely to play a big role in the cornerback rotation.
Two weeks ago, Cromartie was promoted from the practice squad and played 59 defensive snaps in a victory over the Falcons and led his team with seven tackles.
Then, against Seattle this past weekend, Cromartie came into the game to replace starter Kenneth Acker – benched after a poor start – and played 47 snaps. While Acker missed a key tackle and gave up two catches on two targets (including a touchdown), Cromartie gave up just one catch on two targets for just 8 yards, reported Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com this week.
In the wake of Acker’s shaky performance and the poor play overall of the 49ers’ secondary against the Seahawks, Cromartie is likely to see plenty of action over the final six games, noted Matt Barrows, who covers the 49ers for the Sacramento Bee.
“The 49ers like his size and aggression, and Cromartie is unafraid to get involved in run defense,” wrote Barrows. “Cromartie has a hunger about him that the 49ers like. It will be interesting to see if his role expands Sunday against the Cardinals.”
Cromartie, a 6-foot, 195-pounder who played at Wisconsin, is eager and always willing to make a name for himself.
“It feels like I need to step up my game,” he said recently. “I play with a chip on my shoulder and be like, ‘When you hear Cromartie, let’s hear Marcus and not so much Dominique and Antonio.’ It lets me play with a little edge.”
Certainly, Cromartie and his secondary mates face a challenge. In the 49ers’ first matchup with the Cards this season, Carson Palmer threw for 311 yards and two TDs and wideout Larry Fitzgerald had nine catches for 134 yards.