Fox's Future Dependent On Rookies
Sherrod Martin's breakout performance against Arizona bolstered the John Fox Era like few before had. Martin, a forgotten rookie who had lost to Captain Munnerlyn for the nickel job (CJ Wilson had honestly earned it, and played outstanding Sunday in his own first action this year), had dressed but hardly played until Sunday. His two interceptions were great, but his play overall was more valuable than just those two turnovers. Starting FS Charles Godfrey, who made tons of mistakes as a rookie in 2008, had been off to a similarly rocky 2009 - playing tenatively deep,and faltering in run support (on one play, Martin was faked so badly he actually jumped backwards out of the way of the ballcarrier, against Dallas). Safety play directly improved with Quenton Teal making way for Chris Harris after the bye, but things finally looked right with Martin in at the other safety. A natural safety from Troy, Martin didn't make the transition to corner that well. He fits well at safety, however, and took to it right away. With that move, the defense suddenly looked more up to it's #1 overall pass rating than it had in the past (yeah,that's right, the Panthers are STILL #1 after facing the Cardinals - who saw that coming?). With that move, it added major legitimacy to Fox and new coordinator Ron Meeks' approach to defense, which could sustain the staff throughout the year. A young defense and young team overall, Carolina had seen veterans drop because of the cap situation; a lot of that youth looked sluggish and unmotivated in a slow start. Clearly, a youthful resurgence would put John Fox back in better standing. Similarly, Mike Goodson or Tony Fiammetta could help significantly, though neither have. Everette Brown has to continue to show burst, to have made the first half of the 49ers trade worth it. That's not dependent only on Fox's job, but Marty Hurney's as well. Munnerlyn clearly has helped out. Corvey Irvin (IR), Duke Robinson are destined to not play this year at all. Next year's 5th (Tank Tyler) can make an impact, but 2010's 7th(Louis Leonard), who looked good in limited time, is out for the year as well. So far so good for 2011 conditional 7th rounder Jerry Jensen.