As the 49ers head into the playoffs they have a ton of momentum. With six consecutive victories and a 12 – 4 record, many writers have labeled the 49ers as the team nobody wants to face in the playoffs. But after the issues the pass defense had in the playoffs last season, watching the secondary get torched for nearly 800 yards in the last two games makes fans a little nervous.
For the majority of this season the defense, and in particular the secondary has played the pass exceptionally well. The one weak link all season has been former Pro Bowl corner Carlos Rogers. On this play in the final game at Candlestick Park the scene was all too familiar, one that has played out over and over this season. The defense gets the opponent into a difficult 3rd down situation, only to have Rogers’ receiver make a catch and Rogers not even be in the same area code as he runs for a 1st down or a long gain.
Nobody wants to see a player get injured, unfortunately injuries are a huge part of football and Carlos Rogers injured his hamstring on the last series of the game against the Cardinals. After his MRI, signs are not looking good that Rogers will be able to play against the Packers. Considering his play this season this could be good for the 49ers secondary as Eric Wright will take over his duties on the slot receiver for the game against the Packers if Rogers cannot play.
Rogers was a Pro Bowler just two seasons ago, but his play has gone from all pro level in 2011, to bordering on bad in 2012, to absolutely atrocious this year. Looking strictly at numbers, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) (subscription required) Rogers is ranked 148 out of 199 corners with a negative 3 grade for the season. Quarterbacks have thrown at Rogers’ receiver 93 times and completed 57 of those passes for 684 yards, at a rate of nearly 12 yards per completion. Rogers saving grace last year was his tackling, but this year 300 of the 684 yards have been after the catch. Not only is Rogers not keeping the ball out of his receivers hands but when they do make the catch he is letting them run wild. If these numbers weren’t bad enough, over the past 4 games he has actually been worse, quarterbacks have completed over 70% of their passes in Rogers direction with a passer rating of 117.8.
Compare these numbers to Eric Wright who is ranked 55 out of 199 corners with a plus 1.9 grade. Wright in his limited snaps has held quarterbacks to a 57.1 passer rating (82.1 for Rogers) while allowing less then 17% of yards gained to come after the catch (43.8% for Rogers). According to PFF Rogers has received a negative grade in 10 out of 16 games, while Wright has had a negative grade in only 2 of 8 games he has played. Even though Wright has a small sample set, when he has played, he has covered and tackled much better then Rogers.
If Carlos Rogers is out for the game against the Packers, the situation may end up being a blessing in disguise for the Niners secondary. Based on his performance so far Eric Wright has the potential to impact the 49ers secondary in much the same way Tramaine Brock did after he took over for Nnamdi Asomugha when he went down with a knee injury earlier this year. If Wright can have that type of impact, the San Francisco secondary will be a force to reckoned with in the playoffs, and fans might breath a little bit easier.