A stat that may surprise some: San Francisco 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward has been targeted four more times than any other player in the NFL this year.
Ward plays on a team that has continuously held the lead throughout games, and, since the bye week, has traveled with the oppositions best wideout at critical juncture’s of the game. Credit defensive coordinator Steve Wilks for putting Ward in a position to make plays.
The 27-year-old showed off his speed after intercepting Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray in Week 15:
After the game, Kyle Shanahan wasn’t surprised by Mooney’s acceleration, saying, “he can run.”
Per Next Gen Stats, Ward reached 20.64 miles per hour, which was the second-fastest time among any ball carrier in Week 15.
The only player to top Ward’s time was a player the 49ers defense would’ve faced next week if not for his unfortunate season-ending injury, Keaton Mitchell.
Ward is in a position to make a play on the ball, which is half of the battle. He’s second in the league in pass breakups with 16 and interceptions with four. If you think about the number of passes that Mooney has gotten his hands on since the bye week, his interception total could easily be doubled.
Per Sports Info Solutions, Ward has dropped five interceptions this year and only surrendered two touchdowns.
He’s targeted at such a high rate that Ward will inevitably give up receptions. But he’ll make teams start to second guess themselves if Mooney starts converting more of these breakups into interceptions.
I bet you didn’t have Sam Darnold as part of the reason for Ward’s preparation:
Charvarius Ward reveals how Sam Darnold helped him prepare for his big game today pic.twitter.com/X6QzcE4fgG— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) December 18, 2023
Ward spoke it into existence just a week ago:
Charvarius Ward is playing at an All Pro level, but his mentality is already at a hall of fame level!— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) December 17, 2023
Ward said earlier this week: “Right now I’m leading the league in PBU’s, but when I start catching those interceptions, I might be the top DB in the NFL” #49ers pic.twitter.com/9uBLQiUnl9
Ward is proving to be a worthy investment in the second year of his contract. The 49ers bet that he hadn’t played his best football yet in Kansas City, and we’re seeing Mooney develop into the competitive, lockdown type of cornerback that every top defense needs.
Ward’s deal voids after 2024. He’ll be the next player we debate whether he’s worthy of a “max” level extension for his position. Based on his play this season, the answer is easy. If Mooney has a playoff run where he shuts down the receivers we know the 49ers would have to go through to make it to the Super Bowl, contract negotiations may not make it to 2025.
Ward has been a fascinating piece of the puzzle for the 49ers.