The San Francisco 49ers have trotted out to a 10-3 start to the season, most recently winning five consecutive games since coming off their bye week to take control of the No. 1 seed in the NFC with four weeks remaining before the playoffs.
During the second half of the season, the 49ers have found a way to be dominant on both sides of the ball, scoring 32.4 points a game, while giving up only 13 points a game over the past five weeks.
Defensively, San Francisco has done a good job of getting to the quarterback, but their coverage has also improved, with star cornerback Charvarius Ward leading the helm alongside outside corner Ambry Thomas and nickelback Deommodore Lenoir.
At the head of the snake, Ward has been one of the best cover corners in the league, once again, when healthy, as he’s recorded a league-high 20 pass breakups this season, while taking away two interceptions.
Throughout his career, dating back to his days with the Kansas City Chiefs, Ward has been seen as an underrated corner, as his lack of interceptions makes him less of a flashy option at the position, despite his strong coverage.
However, the 49ers saw value in adding the then-25-year-old to their roster, providing him a three-year, $40.5 million contract that I viewed as a fantastic deal at the time, given the money allocated to the cornerback and the talent that Ward had.
Now in his third season with the 49ers, Ward has remained as a top cornerback in the NFL, only elevating his game as he begins to enter his prime at age 27.
That leads to the question: is Ward a top-five cornerback in the league? The confident defensive back surely thinks so.
“I ain’t going to lie, though. Right now I’m really starting to feel like I’m a top five, top three corner in the league,” Ward said this week on teammate Arik Arrmstead’s “Third And Long” podcast, via the Tidal League.
While giving himself high praise, Ward also believes there are areas of his game that can still improve, beginning with the most important factor: interceptions.
“Right now, I’m leading the league in PBUs,” Ward shared. “But, bro, when I start catching them interceptions, I might be the top DB in the NFL, like the big dog of the whole league. I feel like I got that talent. Because every time a ball caught on me, I’m right here, I’m right there every time.”
“So when I start picking them balls off, some of them I can catch some of them. Some of them be like amazing plays if I do catch it. But I feel like soon, bro, I’m going to be the top dog.”
Regardless though, Ward is excited that he’s finally earning the well-deserved praise coming his way after being deemed an underrated cornerback for a long period of time.
“I’m glad people starting to kind of, like, [give] my flowers, man,” Ward said. “I’ve been grinding since, you know, them Kansas City days, early in my career, undrafted with Dallas, them Dallas days, I’ve been grinding to try to make a name for myself, and I’m happy for myself. Not to sound kind of arrogant, and I like that, but I’m just happy I’m starting to finally get my flowers.”
His coaches surely believe that Ward is one of the league’s best cover cornerbacks, as they’ve asked the defensive back to shadow top receivers in the past, such as Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf, who was limited to three catches for 32 yards on nine targets in Week 12 against Ward.
Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks shared his praises towards the team’s top corner, pointing out his ability to shadow top receivers, while mentioning that the talent has always been there with Ward.
“I think Mooney [CB Charvarius Ward] is doing an outstanding job trying to mirror and follow the top receiver,” Wilks said. “I don’t want to say [there’s been] much different [over the past few weeks], besides, yeah, definitely going with the number one receiver. I think his level of confidence is there. I think he’s playing with great technique, eyes in the right spot. I think he’s just really locked in and focused.”
Ward missed the majority of last weekend’s game with a groin injury, forcing Isaiah Oliver back into action, but the 49ers were able to defeat the Seahawks 28-16 for their fifth consecutive victory.
Looking to add to a strong 2023 campaign, Ward will now focus on the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15, where he’ll hope to play just one week removed from his injury.