After a shaky first three games of the season, the San Francisco 49ers are starting to build a bit of momentum.
They earned a signature win in Week 4 over the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, 24-9, and they then destroyed the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, 37-15.
As a result, the 49ers have sole possession of first place in the NFC West, and they’re doing so chiefly with defense.
Through five games, they rank tops in several defensive categories, including total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, passing touchdowns allowed, first downs allowed and points allowed.
San Francisco has had a strong front seven for a while now, but its secondary has improved, mainly due to the addition of cornerback Charvarius Ward.
He has put up some nice numbers so far, and if he keeps going at this rate, he deserves recognition as one of the NFL’s best corners.
Ward Has Had To Earn His Stripes The Hard Way
Although Ward was a good player in high school who received All-region honors at McComb High School in Mississippi, he wasn’t a heralded player in college.
He spent two years at Hinds Community College, then transferred to Middle Tennessee State University, a school that plays in Conference USA, a conference that doesn’t exactly offer the highest level of competition.
Ward wasn’t invited to participate in the NFL Combine in March 2018 after his senior season, and he ended up going undrafted, after which the Dallas Cowboys signed him to a three-year deal, only to trade him to the Kansas City Chiefs in August.
After starting just two games as a rookie, he started to emerge in 2019, recording 74 tackles (56 solo) and two interceptions, as well as a 47.2 percent completion rate and a 65.2 passer rating when the man he was covering was targeted.
He got himself a championship ring that year, but his production didn’t improve over the next two seasons.
Although the 49ers, when healthy, have been one of the league’s elite teams over the past three years, their pass defense was somewhat porous, and they needed help in the secondary in order to keep the game’s more talented wide receivers in check.
Ward has helped them do that.
Ward Has Been Excellent In Coverage
Although there have been a few wideouts, such as the Rams’ Cooper Kupp, who put up big games against the Niners this season, Ward has the ability to make them work.
Through five games, he has 26 tackles (15 solo), one interception, eight passes defended, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble.
He ranks among the elite in a few key defensive categories so far this season.
Most Passes Defended this season
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) October 11, 2022
Most games with a pass defended this season
SAUCE GARDNER 5
Charvarius Ward 5
James Bradberry 5
11 players tied 4 pic.twitter.com/IuaSAd4aOy
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) October 13, 2022
Ward was particularly suffocating against the Panthers, as he had four passes defended in that contest alone, which included one that robbed them of a touchdown.
He stuck to his man like flypaper while showing great defensive discipline.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) October 10, 2022
He could be on his way to his first Pro Bowl appearance if he keeps putting forth the type of numbers and production he has been.
Charvarius Ward allowed just 1 reception for 32 yards & forced 4 tight windows on 6 targets in the 49ers 37-15 victory over the Panthers.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 9, 2022
The 49ers may not win the Super Bowl this season, but given that Ward is only 26 and under contract for two more seasons after this one, perhaps he will end up getting himself another ring soon, this time in San Francisco.