Film Room: 49ers 2018 free-agent CB option Trumaine Johnson

Trumaine Johnson, CB

Ht/wt: 6-foot-2, 205 lbs.

2017: 16 G (15 starts), 65 tackles, 2 INT, TD, FF

A week away from free agency officially kicking off and already there’s been a lot of talk about the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders being the two frontrunners in the Trumaine Johnson sweepstakes.

Standing at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Johnson fits the mold of cornerbacks that have been brought in by the 49ers since the new regime took over. Aside from his size, the 49ers can use Johnson’s ball-hawking skills. Last season the 49ers were near the bottom of the league in interceptions with a total of 10. In six seasons, Johnson has totaled 18 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns.

Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 cornerback rankings have Johnson ranked 15th out of 76 outside corners. A tremendous upgrade over 49ers free agent cornerback Dontae Johnson, who is 63rd on the list.

What makes Trumaine Johnson worthy of a top-15 cornerback ranking and how does he fit with the 49ers?

The 49ers play a zone scheme on defense with a lot of man concepts. The outside cornerbacks have the option to play press or press bail technique on almost every play. They may also play off coverage if they choose. Let’s dive into the film and break down the matchup between Trumaine Johnson and Houston Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins.

Johnson didn’t line up in press coverage many times, but when he did there was zero separation between he and Hopkins.

The skinny post/slant routes were an issue for 49er cornerbacks last season. The Texans tried Johnson twice on that route, completing 1 of 2 attempts.

Early on, Hopkins wasn’t having much success against Johnson, so the Texans moved him around, lining him up all over, including in the backfield. Johnson followed him there, too.

Press bail is a technique 49er corners used often in 2017. Understanding down and distance, Johnson was able to use this technique but react quickly to tackle Hopkins short of the sticks for a minimal gain.

Typically taller cornerbacks are vulnerable to double moves. Their feet usually just don’t transition quick enough. Here Hopkins was able to get Johnson with a stutter and go to make a contested catch down the sideline.

Fit with 49ers:

Overall, Trumaine Johnson is a much improved option over the cornerbacks who played opposite Ahkello Witherspoon in 2017. Adding a veteran ball-hawk with Johnson’s ability instantly upgrades the secondary. If the 49ers choose to enhance the cornerback position through free agency, Johnson should be the top target for Robert Saleh’s defense.

Media courtesy Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle

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