San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly spoke to the media today and declared that DB Jimmie Ward was the team's best cornerback.
Kelly was asked why Ward was not moved to safety following the season-ending injury to FS Eric Reid, a move that might seem natural to some given Ward's college experience. "We think Jimmie's our best corner," Kelly said. "I think that matchup, that he's our best corner and our best nickel. The ability to cover man to man in this league is first and foremost so if you ask anybody, 'What do you want when you're looking at the secondary?' Everybody wants a corner before they want a safety. We thought that's Jimmie's best position. We could move him to safety but we think we'd be really short changed out of the corner spot."
Has Ward actually passed Tramaine Brock, who went into the offseason as the team's top cornerback, as the best at the position for the 49ers? "I just think because of his versatility," Kelly said. "Don't diminish anything that Brock's done. I think Jimmie is the one guy that plays all over the place. So he plays in the slot. He can play nickel. He blitzes from that position. Can match up with the top receivers on the outside. He's a rare combination. Sometimes when you look at the secondary, you have guys that are just outside corners and guys that are just slot corners. The guy that can play both, that versatility I think is what puts him at the top for us."
On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil also stated that Ward was the team's best cornerback. "I think Jimmie Ward's a corner in our system," said O'Neil when asked about him.
Ward is currently in the league mandated concussion protocol after suffering the head injury against the New England Patriots on Sunday. His availability against the Miami Dolphins is not yet known.
Advanced statistics site Pro Football Focus has Ward ranked as the second-best defensive back on the team, behind Brock. Ward ranks as the 39th best cornerback in the league while Brock comes in at 17.