Cornerback Tarell Brown is making steady progress from an internal injury near his ribs that he sustained a couple weeks back in New Orleans.
Once he returns, the 49ers have a decision to make. Does Brown get his old job back? Does Tramaine Brock remain as the starter? Or will it be decided on the practice field?
Brock, who the 49ers signed to a four-year, $14 million extension just prior to his first NFL start, allowed only two catches on eight targets for 19 yards against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus.
Also, veteran cornerback Eric Wright saw his most action, as he took part in 38 snaps against the Rams. What role, if any, will he have when the 49ers return to full strength in the secondary?
With four games remaining in the regular season, the 49ers’ defense is playing very well. And aside from that question at cornerback, everybody’s roles are well-defined.
--The 49ers found a good rotation along the defensive line. Justin Smith, Glenn Dorsey and Ray McDonald provide the 49ers with a stout defensive line. And, now, the team is feeling very good about the contributions off the sideline from Tony Jerod-Eddie, in particular, and Demarcus Dobbs.
Because a 3-4 defense typically suits up only five defensive linemen, that means rookies Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial simply will not be needed for the remainder of this season, as long as the players in front of them remain healthy. Dial saw limited action in three games this season. Carradine has not suited up for a game, yet.
Even though Dial was a fifth-round draft pick and Carradine was a second-rounder, Dial is actually further along than Carradine. Dial came from a system at Alabama that was a lot more similar to what he’s asked to do with the 49ers. Also, Dial’s toe surgery was a lot less serious than the knee injury that Carradine sustained during his final season at Florida State.
Even if they are not used again this season, both Dial and Carradine have an opportunity to continue to practice and learn the system to put themselves in positions to emerge as part of the rotation next season.
--Aldon Smith returned to his every-down role. He, along with most of the other starters, sat out the final 10-play St. Louis Rams scoring drive in the closing minutes. With Smith and Ahmad Brooks on the field, that does not leave much opportunity for Dan Skuta, who played well in Smith’s absence, and Corey Lemonier to see much action.
Defensive play time
Vs. St. Louis, 69 snaps
69 -- CB Tramaine Brock, CB Carlos Rogers
67 -- FS Eric Reid
59 -- LB NaVorro Bowman, LB Patrick Willis
58 -- SS Donte Whitner
54 -- OLB Aldon Smith
49 -- OLB Ahmad Brooks
40 -- DL Justin Smith
38 -- CB Eric Wright
37 -- DL Ray McDonald
35 -- DL Glenn Dorsey
32 -- DL Tony Jerod-Eddie
26 -- DL Demarcus Dobbs
19 -- OLB Dan Skuta
14 -- OLB Corey Lemonier
13 -- SS C.J. Spillman
10 -- LB Michael Wilhoite, LB Nick Moody
1 -- FS Craig Dahl