Everyone's healthy, so who starts at corner?

With the 49ers cornerbacks healthy for the first time since the season opener, how will they distribute playing time?

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 49ers have a good problem to have when it comes to their cornerbacks.

For the first time since Week 1, San Francisco is planning to have its full compliment of starting corners available to play Sunday.

That also means they are going to have a few difficult decisions to make.

Since taking over for No. 1 corner Tramaine Brock after he left the season-opening win over the Cowboys with a toe injury, Perrish Cox has emerged from a reserve role to become one of the league's best corners through the first half of the season.

Cox is tied for second among all corners with three interceptions. He's also tied for second in pass break ups, with six, according to Pro Football Focus. Quarterbacks have a 53.4 rating when targeting him in coverage.

But Brock is team's only non-rookie at the position with a contract beyond this season. He signed a four-year, $16 million deal after being elevated to the starting lineup early in 2013. Both Cox and Chris Culliver are in contract years.

The question is, will contract status impact playing time?

"We’ll mix up the corner position and try and get them all action in there at the same time and in-and-out, be different combinations," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Thursday. "When we play six DBs, they’d be in there, all of them. It looks like Ward will be able to go, so he would be the nickel. So, I think it would be different combinations at different times."

Without Culliver and rookie nickel back Jimmie Ward, the 49ers defense couldn't stop Peyton Manning and the Broncos, who routed San Francisco 42-17 before the bye week.

"Culliver’s still recouping from his injury as is Brock and those are two of the guys that are still up in the air a little bit," said Fangio.

Culliver has typically played the right side of the defense while Brock was pegged to start on the left. Cox, perhaps the team's most versatile corner, moved to the slot to play nickel against Denver while Ward was out with a strained quad, which forced rookie Dontae Johnson's insertion into the starting lineup.

Fangio said Ward, the team's most recent first-round draft pick, will remain the nickel corner when healthy. His play has improved since allowing three touchdowns to Brandon Marshall in Week 2's loss to the Bears. He hasn't allowed a TD since.

*Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used in this report*


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