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Why Mooney Ward is one of the 49ers most important players

Ward continues to impress, even though he’s playing on an island

The 49ers have stars at every level of their defense. Along the defensive line, it’s Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. The linebacking corps has Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. In the secondary, Mooney Ward has come in and quickly become a shutdown cornerback, but he’s been in and out of the lineup recently. On today’s Bully Ball podcast, Jason Aponte and Steph Sanchez wondered how vulnerable that group would be if Ward had to miss some time.

Mooney Ward has been nothing short of amazing this season. He’s shadowed players like DK Metcalf and made them complete non-factors in the game while also being one of PFF’s highest-graded cornerbacks against the run all year long.

He has been in and out of the lineup with injuries and nausea, however, and when he’s not in the game, things can get a little dicey. Case in point:

Do the 49ers have something to worry about if Mooney Ward misses time? Deommodore Lenoir has been better in his second season, but he isn’t someone who can match up one-on-one against the opposing team’s top wide receiver. No team in the NFL has a fourth corner in the league that’s capable of doing that. But it could be the situation we’re living in if Ward has to miss any significant amount of time the rest of the way.

“I’ve credited this team for being able to overcome a lot of injuries throughout the season,” Steph Sanchez said on today’s show, “But there are a few guys that they can’t afford to lose. Nick Bosa, Mooney Ward, Trent Williams, and I kind of want to say Brock Purdy, too, based on how he’s playing right now.”

DeMeco Ryans has shown an ability to adapt to changing personnel throughout his time as the defensive coordinator, but even the best coaches can look lost when a team is decimated with cluster injuries at a particular position.

Hopefully, Ward’s injuries are simply a bump in the road, and the 49ers won’t have to spend any serious amount of time in the playoffs without their top cornerback.

Other topics in today’s show

The second-half adjustments against Washington were fantastic (2:31)

Kyle Shanahan was wise to avoid 2023 QB question (5:09)

Is George Kittle now back to being the monster he was in 2018? (8:23)

Mike Silver is stirring the pot on the Kittle/49ers relationship (10:41)

Nick Bosa’s play on the 2-point conversion changed the game (13:18)

Javon Kinlaw looked exactly how you’d want him to look in his return (15:42)

Is this team ready for the postseason right now? (17:46)

Mooney Ward is massively important to this defense (19:33)

One Achilles’ Heel for this defense that has started to get exploited (22:34)

Brock Purdy’s chances at Offensive Rookie of the Year (26:48)