Rumph loses starting job; others still in doghouse

The other shoe dropped Monday afternoon at 49ers headquarters, and it fell first squarely on Mike Rumph, with others likely to follow. After another horrid performance by San Francisco's secondary during Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys, coach Mike Nolan announced that he's moving Rumph back to cornerback from free safety, with nickel back Mike Adams assuming the starting role at that position. Nolan also said he continues to closely evaluate certain players not on board with his program.

The demotion means Rumph, San Francisco's first-round draft pick in 2002, is now a backup who will "compete at both (cornerback positions) and work in the slot where Mike Adams has been," according to Nolan.

Nolan moved Rumph – the team's starting right cornerback since 2003 who missed 14 games last year due to a broken arm – to free safety in the spring because he wanted to get San Francisco's best four defensive backs on the field, and he felt Rumph was one of them.

But it proved to be a failed experiment. Rumph displayed some great hitting ability from the deep safety position, but he often was caught out of position in San Francisco's first three games and took bad angles to the football. That played a factor in opponents ravaging San Francisco's secondary for 1,122 passing yards in just three games this season, many of them coming on big plays too numerous to mention.

Adams, one of the fastest players on the team, began training camp as a backup safety but was switched to cornerback when he moved past other defensive backs on the depth chart into a more prominent role in coverage packages. Adams beat out veteran Willie Middlebrooks for the nickel back role, but the second-year veteran has had his own struggles at that position.

"The guys we have are the guys we're playing with," Nolan said. "There's a few players who aren't in the right position. We're slacking from a coverage standpoint, which is pretty evident. We're not doing a very good job there. But these players I'm talking about are 49ers, and they're guys that I trust, they're guys I say are champions as we go forward. But I'll take responsibility in saying that I believe I've probably got them out of position. As you're searching through it, it's hard to find the right guys for certain things, especially when you're trying to make somebody do something that really isn't natural. You're almost short a guy.

"But the important thing is that these players I'm talking about in this particular case are not in the doghouse. It's more of a case of what's going to make us better."

That's not to say there aren't some players in Nolan's doghouse.

After Sunday's 34-31 loss to the Cowboys, Nolan railed on unnamed players that weren't getting on board with the new regime's program.

Nolan again declined to get specific about those players Monday, but he again pointed out – as he did Sunday – that it's just a handful of players who are being disloyal and not "trusting" of the new way the team is doing things.

"I'll say this: There's a minimum amount, so that you know that. It's not a large amount," Nolan said. "The majority of the people in that room are champions, and I still believe that. It's a very few that I'm evaluating on that premise. I'm in the process of that right now. There are no conclusions, no results, no transactions – nothing like that at this point. But I'm certainly evaluating things."

As that evaluation continues, certain individuals are squarely under the microscope.

"I am focused on getting this thing on the right track. And whether it be player changes by position, or guys that need to trust in their assignments and the things they have to do to do them, I'm going to share it with you," Nolan said. "I do not have anything at this time as far as roster movement. I want to maintain the structure and utilize today and tomorrow for the changes we might make. It's a team thing. It's as much a coaching decision on some things as it is some players' decisions on things. That's why I'm confident certain things will get done."


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