On Thursday night, San Francisco 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward returned from injury for his first NFL start at free safety. We break down Ward’s performance against the Los Angeles Rams.
When the San Francisco 49ers decided to change their defensive system to a 4-3 Cover 3 Press last offseason, many questioned the move, because the 49ers lacked a player on their roster for the scheme’s most important position — free safety.
However, Lynch and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan already had their free safety on the Niners’ roster. Cornerback Jimmie Ward, a converted college safety, was slotted to play the “Earl Thomas role” in the 49ers’ new defense, until he sustained an early training camp injury.
After returning in a limited role in Week 2, Ward played all 65 snaps at free safety on Thursday night against the Rams.
And he impressed.
The Rams chose not to challenge Ward and stayed away from the seams and deep middle of the field. Ward was still able to make a positive impact in both pass and run defense, and led the 49ers with seven tackles.
As the last man in the back of the secondary, Ward needs to be a sure tackler. Here, Ward saves a potential touchdown after cornerback K’Waun Williams and linebacker NaVorro Bowman both slip on the play: