One of the best parts of NFL training camp is that it’s a long enough period that the people paying attention can identify the movement of different players’ stock day by day. Of course, it’s not always a matter of who shows up big on tape (either good or bad), but also who doesn’t show up, at all, to practice.
Since training camp started, there have been several great storylines that have unfolded, such as Jimmy Garoppolo making up ground on his deep-ball woes, the up-and-down nature of Richard Sherman’s return, or the increasingly intense battle at the bottom of the WR corps. However, there have been a few alarms silently ringing, which are bound to grow louder each day.
Jimmie Ward has been mentioned quite often through the first week of the 49ers training camp. Unfortunately, a lot of it has been negative. His name has been appearing almost every day attached to something negative. Ward is an extremely talented and capable player, who has had a rough go of things in his young career - a rash of injuries that have held him back, a positional change seemingly every year, etc.
Although he has been largely expected to be a supremely valuable “sixth man” of the secondary - a do-it-all backup that can slot in anywhere at a moment’s notice, his performance through camp is putting a damper even on that fairly low expectation. Furthermore, Ward is quietly the highest paid player on defense this year, receiving a fully guaranteed $8.5 million dollar contract. He’ll be a free agent after this season, and he’s making a great case to be given a chance to test the waters.
Other storylines that have taken a south-bound turn include Arik Armstead and Joshua Garnett. Armstead, who was injured on Tuesday, is now expected to miss multiple weeks as details emerge about the severity of his hamstring issue. After yet another injury-shortened season in 2017, there is a lot riding on his performance this year, and I’m sure there’s no lack of frustration for any party involved. Garnett, on the other hand, has been on the cusp of returning for what feels like forever at this point, so much to the point that head coach Kyle Shanahan made mention of it - specifically, how it’s difficult to make the team if you’re not practicing.
Three former first rounders, three of the remaining Baalke holdovers, all of them falling flat during the 2018 training camp. Here’s to hoping each one of them will turn it around.
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