The San Francisco 49ers have been sending out Tramaine Brock and Jimmie Ward as their starting cornerbacks through the first two games, and Ward has yet to be tested. Teams are not throwing his way thus far after two weeks of training camp that have drawn rave reviews.
On Monday, defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil was asked if he was prepared to say Ward would be one of the starting cornerbacks come Week 1:
“Yeah, it’s looking that way right now. He hasn’t really been tested in a game yet, but he’s done a great job in the three practices we’ve had against other teams and in both preseason games. But, [CB] Rashard Robinson’s coming, [CB Keith] Reaser’s coming, there’s a lot of guys that are playing really well right now that are going to continue to push Jimmie and [CB Tramaine] Brock, so those guys know they need to show up every day.”
This is not exactly surprising, and Ward could be in line for a big leap in season three. It’s good timing for him as the team will decide next offseason whether or not to pick up his fifth year option. Odds seem pretty good they’ll be picking it up.
Ward met with the media after practice and had a few things to say about his work at cornerback, Colin Kaepernick’s throwing, and some thoughts on the nickel back role.
Cornerback has to be proven not to throw on you because it shows that you’re covering them up, yea?
Yeah, it’s one positive though. Really without getting any balls thrown to me, I’ve worked very good at practice just off the press technique, trying to cover my wide receiver off. Even if it’s a run play I still want to work my own technique. Make sure I get hands on wide receivers at all times.
Do you now see the game through a cornerback’s eyes?
Yes, actually, and still kind of thinking about it as a safety. Just fronts they give us. If I can know it’s max protection, so if I know if it’s a deep ball I can come back. It’s certain looks I can get and then I watch the film for certain looks I can get that I remember to play and I know there’s a certain route coming.
When you’re watching film, what’s the first thing that [voice goes muffled at this point due to the locker room noise. Something about having something back]?
Mainly I felt more like I got to always have eye violations. I’ve had a few eye violations. Once I get that right and know to always keep my eye on my man, I think I’ll be perfectly fine.
What do you mean by that, ‘eye violations.’
Well don’t get wandering eyes. I’m not a safety anymore. That’s what safeties do. Safeties stay at the quarterback, read off the quarterback.
But does it help you to have that kind of vision to know what other people are doing to rule out what your guy might do? As far as route combinations and such?
Yeah. Certain combinations, but you can’t do it at corner if you’re in man. No matter how much I want to look and peak I can’t because that’s how you get beat.
What about Nickel?
Nickel? Oh yeah! Nickel you can look at the quarterback. There’s certain calls that you can look at the quarterback, you can play with your help, you can move around, disguise it. Nickel is like a linebacker.
How much film study are you still doing in Nickel?
I’m still studying film, knocking some of the rust off. I got some nickel reps today. I haven't been at nickel in a couple of days but I’m still playing it.
Do you want to play both? Do you want to work on the outside or do you want to play just one position?
I want to play both. I want to play three. I want to play nickel corner and safety, but right now, I’m playing whatever the coach needs me to play.
Obviously you can’t play them all on the same down. So what’s your priority?
Right now? Coach has me at corner and nickel. So right now it’s just nickel and corner.
What do you think of the job Chris has done?
Oh, Chris Davis has done an outstanding job. That’s one other person who plays good. He disguises well, he blitzes. I like his blitz play and I like his strength too on his blitzes.
Kaepernick was out there throwing at practice today for the first time. From a cornerback’s perspective did he come your way?
Oh yeah! He made a throw on me I think, on a corner route. We were in cover-2. I thought it was a great throw. I couldn’t quite get my hands on the ball, but I couldn’t get under. Kap was making some good throws today.
Was that 11 on 11 today?
I want to say that was 7 on 7. I think it was 7 on 7.
He completed it?
Yeah. I think he completed. I think he completed two throws if I’m not mistaken. Two or three throws, he was doing good.
Who did he hit?
Bruce Ellington, that’s one guy that’s hard to cover. Bruce is very shifty and he has great speed.
As a guy playing nickel back, what can make him successful as a slot guy?
Basically, just his instincts. He knows what the defense is in. Then he uses great leverage. He’s very fast and a very shifty person.