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SANTA CLARA – It’s a problem – a good problem, mind you – that 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio feels no reason to address right now.
As long as cornerback Tramaine Brock remains out of action with “turf toe,” there’s no reason to think too much about how the 49ers’ defensive backfield will look when everybody is healthy.
“We’ll figure that out then,” Fangio said Thursday.
The play of Perrish Cox has given Brock and the 49ers every reason to make sure he is completely recovered before returning to action with an injury that, if isn't allowed proper time to heal, could linger for months.
Cox did not begin the season as a starter, but it certainly feels that way. Brock sustained his injury early in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. And he has been a bright spot in the secondary with a team-leading two interceptions. Cox’s only blemish was a blown zone coverage in a Week 3 loss to the Arizona Cardinals that resulted in a touchdown.
“He definitely has played well,” Fangio said. “And his play has merited playing. That would be a good problem to have, and we’ll solve it.”
Cox began the season as essentially the team’s sixth defensive back. Now, he’s proven he deserves a role even when Brock returns to action.
“I know he’s going to be back eventually,” Cox said. “And I want him back in the DB room. I don’t know. It’s out of my hands. All I can control is what I’m doing now and keep putting good stuff on film.”
On the other side, Chris Culliver has played very well, too, aside from a 45-yard play to the Cardinals’ Michael Floyd on which he had good coverage but did not locate the slightly underthrown pass from Drew Stanton.
It seems reasonable that Brock would not immediately regain his starting job, unless he is forced into action due to an injury. So Brock could enter in nickel situations on the outside with Cox moving to the slot, taking the place of Jimmie Ward.
But Fangio did not sound as if demoting the first-round draft pick is something high on his priority list, either.
“He’s the type of guy who’s going to improve,” Fangio said of Ward. “He’s smart, he’s diligent and he’s prideful. And he’s competitive. So when you have those qualities, you’re going to improve. And he’ll continue to improve going forward.”