A good pass rush can cover a lot of blemishes on a team’s defense.
The San Francisco 49ers have been in the fortunate position in recent years of having a dominant front seven that put enough pressure on quarterbacks to make life easier in the secondary. That may not be the case in 2014, however, as the team will be without NaVorro Bowman for an extended period and faces an uncertain future with Aldon Smith. Combine that with Justin Smith and Ray McDonald being a year older, and the 49ers may have to get a little more creative to disrupt the pocket this season.
As a result of a possible drop in pressure, the secondary will have to be on top of their game. While Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea will offer consistent production at safety, the cornerback position remains a question mark.
Tramaine Brock is the only player who is set in stone at corner, and he has just seven career regular season starts. The team was high on Chris Culliver, but he did not play last season due to a knee injury and has had recent issues with the law. Beyond those two, Perrish Cox, Eric Wright and Chris Cook all appear to be better suited for reserve roles, while Darryl Morris is unproven.
The 49ers will spend a high draft pick on a corner and may even take two at the top of the draft. It might make the most sense to use some of their 11 picks to move up in the first round and get the top player on their board at the position. While there are always some growing pains with rookies, taking a Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard could solidify the position for years to come.
Even with a talented rookie in the fold, the 49ers could still be exposed at corner in 2014 if the pass rush does indeed drop off. There just isn’t enough experience at the position to think they could make up for a lack of pressure should the 49ers be without some key players in the front seven.