Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

31 Oct 2009

49ers Bench Clements

The 49ers are benching Nate Clements "in all alignments" for their game against the Colts on Sunday for Tarell Brown, a 2007 fifth-round pick who will be making his second NFL start.

Clements will still see time as the team's third cornerback against the Colts' three-WR sets, but his demotion is, well, shocking. Four years and $33 million remain on his contract.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 31 Oct 2009

17 comments, Last at 03 Nov 2009, 5:00pm by TXNiner


by Key19 :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 2:22pm

Any ideas on what his problem is? I assuming he was good enough to deserve that contract before he signed it, but he hasn't been good since. Maybe he was never good in the first place? I don't know, I've never watched him. Ideas?

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 2:30pm

I got the impression that most people didn't think he was worth the contract. Good, but not great.

For what it's worth: I didn't see him all that often in Buffalo, but I actually thought he was very good when I did. Since he went to SF, I think I've only seen him once (against the Vikings this year) and he looked considerably worse.

by TruFalcons (not verified) :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 3:07pm

The problem is the extra point title

I'm told this is a one-week demotion for Clements based on the team's belief that Brown matches up better against the style of receivers the 49ers will face against the Colts. Indianapolis' offense is comprised of a bunch of mostly 6-foot tall receivers, such as Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon.

Clements and his physical style is better suited to bigger wideouts. The Colts' biggest receiver is 6-4 Hank Baskett, who has just one catch this season. Clements might return to his usual role next week against the Titans.

by Tim Wilson :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 3:59pm

Seems like a stretch-- you don't see Dallas benching Mike Jenkins when teams with small receivers come to town. I could see putting in a bigger CB to match up with bigger receivers, but putting in a LESS physical one to guard smaller guys? Seems odd if there isn't another separate problem with Clements' performance.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 3:00pm

Brown is the fastest DB on the team, he's much quicker than Clements. It was going to be a one week thing but it's moot now as it sounds like Clements may be out for the season.

by Robo-Hochuli (not verified) :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 5:10pm

Gosh, FO misrepresenting something about the 49ers. That's never happened before.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 2:26pm

DVOA does say the 49ers were 29th against number one WR vs. 13th overall in pass defense, so it sounds like there's justification for it.

Is this going to become annual Singletary thing, benching a big money guy who's underperforming?

by reinhard (not verified) :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 2:35pm

I think that Clements played better in Buffalo because he wasn't expected to cover number one WRs in man-to-man with no help. When he went to SF they started playing him like a shutdown corner and he has gotten exposed.

by Tim Wilson :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 3:57pm

He was also paired with another top CB most of his career there and did not always draw the opponent's #1. Antoine Winfield is good.

by Theo :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 7:03pm

It takes balls to be a losing team and still bench your top players.
Smart? Maybe
Balls? yes
Smart? who knows
Coach? ow yeah.

by Armonio077 :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 7:58pm

I'm not sure but I kind of like the move. Clements is a solid corner who is good in run support. But he isn't the fast guy in the secondary and can be overly aggressive when defending routes.

I think the coaching staff don't want to get burned down the field. They are probably imagining a scenario in which Peyton Manning pump-fakes and Clements bites on the fake and doesn't have the speed to recover. Its happened before with Clements.

by Mungo (not verified) :: Sat, 10/31/2009 - 10:20pm

Clements has been totally burned on a couple of occasions so far this year. He's always been a gambler, but the last two seasons he's been able to limit the big plays a lot better than he has so far this time out. Getting old? Who knows. But it's been fairly obvious that as far as coverage goes, Shawntae Spencer has been our top guy so far.

Run support is something else though. He's not quite on Antoine Winfield's level, but he's damn good. I'm hoping he can make the transition to FS later in his career, allowing us to get some value out of the back end of his ridiculous mega-contract.

On the other hand, Tarell Brown? Damn. A lot of people were impressed by some big plays he made in the second half of last year on nickel/dime duty, but he looked to me like an even bigger gambler than Clements. If he tries that shit on Manning, the end result will be ugly. I'm not too optimitic about it.

by Karl Cuba :: Sun, 11/01/2009 - 12:20pm

I reckon that you may as well gamble against Manning, it's better than letting him out-execute you time after time.

For now I'm going to blindly follow the party line that it's a one game thing and he'll be matched up on Dallas Clark. Clements has had a tough month though and the niners (and FO) seem to like Brown so this could be a longer term thing. It could be that with Michael Lewis suffering from concussions, teh niners staff want to move Clements back to strong safety.

Wierd move though.

by Deelron (not verified) :: Sun, 11/01/2009 - 7:36pm

We'll never know about the party line, ESPN is reporting he has a broken scapula (shoulder blade).

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 11:50am

There's been a lot of talk about what a great safety he'd make. He's terrific at the line and terrific in run support. I haven't seen a CB take after running backs like this since the last time I was watching Ronde Barber. His problem as a CB is that he's just not that fast.

What do you do with a guy who has great ball skills, is a great tackler, but who's a bit slow?

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 5:28pm

Use him to cover TEs and RBs?

by TXNiner :: Tue, 11/03/2009 - 5:00pm

Just saw this morning Clements is out 6-8 weeks with a fractured scapula.