ESPN’s Matt Bowen released his seventh annual “Shutdown Index,” where he picks the best defensive backs in 18 categories. Bowen lists everything from the top secondary in the league to the best press-man cornerback in the league.
Charvarius Ward aligned across from DK Metcalf on 25 of 35 routes (71% shadow) in the first three quarters before leaving the game with an injury.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 16, 2022
Ward forced 3 tight windows on 6 targets in coverage against Metcalf, allowing 4 receptions for 33 yards.#SFvsSEA | #FTTB pic.twitter.com/pK4Raqkmbs
Ward is PFF’s eighth highest-graded cornerback in zone coverage this season. Ward has forced six incompletions on 44 targets. Ward has been a lockdown cover corner, but his prowess against the run has been unbelievable this season. Ward is second in the league in run stops when playing zone, per PFF. He hasn’t missed a tackle this season in zone coverage.
Best tone-setter - Talanoa Hufanga
49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga was rightfully recognized by Bowen:
You want guys like Hufanga in your defensive back room. He’s urgent and disruptive. He’s explosive on contact. His game speed jumps on tape. And the system under defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is a prime fit for Hufanga’s traits, as he can play top-down on everything. This season, Hufanga has produced four interceptions, eight pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two sacks. He’s an active defender.
Hufanga is sixth among all safeties in run stops at 26. No safety has forced more fumbles than Hufanga. He’s also top-five in sacks and has a pair of quarterback hits, five pass breakups, and four interceptions. And of the safeties that have played at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps, Hufanga has allowed the sixth-lowest passer rating in coverage — Tashaun Gipson is first.
Hufanga has been a game-changer and, by definition, a tone-setter.