The 49ers feel a lot better than a year ago about their depth in the defensive backfield, but coach Mike Nolan is not altogether satisfied with the depth chart.
In fact, he said he visits regularly with vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan to check up on the possibility of adding potential starters to the mix before training camp opens in late July.
"I'm on him hard about trying to find some guys on the back end," Nolan said. "We're turning over a lot of stones."
The 49ers are in good salary-cap shape, and they believe they will have more options available to them when some veteran players shake free in June.
The 49ers have two players in the secondary the team envisions as no-questions-asked starters: cornerback Shawntae Spencer and strong safety Tony Parrish, who might not be ready to get back on the field until training camp after sustaining a spiral fracture of his left lower leg in November.
But there are plenty of questions about the other two spots. Two-year veteran Mike Adams is the frontrunner to start at free safety after making nine starts there last season. Rookie Marcus Hudson, a sixth-round draft pick from North Carolina State, appears to have the ability to challenge for a starting job in training camp.
Another of the team's big concerns is at cornerback. Last season, the 49ers were forced to turn to several players who did not even go to training camp with the club to fill important roles. Bruce Thornton started 11 games, B.J. Tucker saw action in six games after the 49ers picked them up after they had been cut elsewhere.
This year, the 49ers have more depth at cornerback. Mike Rumph returns from a foot injury that ended his season after three games; 10-year veteran Walt Harris was signed as a free agent, and Sammy Davis was acquired in a trade with the Chargers. Currently, Harris is listed as the top player on the depth chart.
The current 49ers coaching staff has never really gotten a look at Rumph as a cornerback. The former regime selected him with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2002 draft. He spent his first three seasons in the league as a cornerback, but last year the 49ers tried unsuccessfully to convert him to free safety. After three games, Nolan decided to move Rumph back to cornerback. But Rumph sustained a season-ending torn plantar fascia in practice that week, ending his season.
"They haven't seen me," Rumph said of the coaching staff. "My first day at corner I got injured. It's an audition. I'm coming in like it's my first day and I'm starting all over again. I understand the coaching staff. They've never seen me at the position, so I don't have any credibility with these guys."
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