(This is Part 2 in a series that will spotlight five 49ers players to watch Friday night in the team's exhibition opener against the Minnesota Vikings, 6 p.m., at Candlestick Park.)
Five 49ers to watch: 5. Alex Boone
The 49ers ranked 11th in the NFL in third-down defense last season. They did it with a promising first-time starter and a rookie third cornerback. Oh, yeah, the other cornerback is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance and returned to the club with a lucrative contract.
So with the old vet Carlos Rogers, as well as Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver, a second-year player, there do not figure to be many opportunities for another cornerback to work into the mix.Perrish Cox did not play last season after the Denver Broncos released the 2010 draft pick in the midst of allegations of sexual abuse. Cox was acquitted early this year, and the 49ers signed him shortly thereafter.Cox has performed well since coming to the 49ers. He's in competition with Tramaine Brock for the job as the team's No. 4 cornerback. (Brock, as you recall, began last season as the third cornerback, intercepted passes in the first two games, but could not regain his role from Culliver after missing several weeks with a hand injury.)Cox's best attribute is his versatility. He can play cornerback and nickel back, as well as return kicks and punts.Cox will likely get into the action as part of the team's third defense. Rogers and Brown are the starters. Culliver and Brock are the second team.So Cox will likely be matched at some point against Vikings receivers Michael Jenkins, Stephen Burton, Devin Aromashodu and Jarius Wright. After going up regularly against the 49ers' top receivers in 49ers camp, Cox should be expected to have a strong performance.