The praise of Jimmie Ward continues from the NFL. First, we saw Larry Fitzgerald compliment the San Francisco safety-turned-cornerback on his grit and now New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles had some praise for the player in his meeting with the Bay Area media:
“I liked him coming out, I think he’s gotten better. He can play cornerback or safety. He’s one of the guys that can play inside or outside and match up with anybody. Excellent transitioning coming on the break and ball skills and I think he’s a good competitor.”
In 2014, Ward and Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall squared off when Marshall played for the Chicago Bears and Ward was just a rookie. From the 49ers’ end, the actual match-up was a disaster with Marshall dominating Ward en-route to a 3-touchdown game and the 49ers losing 28-20. While some of it could be blamed on rookie mistakes, a lot of it could be placed on Ward’s size/speed vs Marshall’s (which was one of the best in the NFL).
The follow-up question was on Ward’s size and if a bigger cornerback was better for covering receivers like Brandon Marshall:
“Well bigger corner is always better, but you match up with the big ones or the quick ones, that’s what you want.”
For the curious, Bowles’ interview with the 49ers in 2015 did come up as well and he happily referred to the York family as “first class guys.”
But back to Ward. He seems to have the ire of several teams competing against the 49ers (finding someone for that may be a challenge in of its own) and it makes sense considering he’s emerged as arguably the best cornerback on the roster. The major issues seem to be the nagging injuries that remove him from a game or two.
He’s no longer a rookie, he’s no longer a safety filling in at cornerback , and he’s now one of the better players on the 49ers’ roster. That definitely may not say much given this talent pool, but his numbers are nothing to scoff at: 33 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.
Marshall may be getting a bit long in the tooth, but hopefully he’ll be put against Ward a few times this Sunday and see if the match-up is one-sided, but for Ward instead.