San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh clarified the role defensive back Jimmie Ward will have with the team in 2018 after the Niners wrapped up their fourth day of training camp.


Fifth-year San Francisco 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward is, essentially, a "man without a position" heading into 2018. After being knocked out halfway through the 2017 season with a broken forearm, subsequently losing his starting free safety job to Adrian Colbert, Ward is now being tagged as an all-encompassing backup within the secondary.

On the positive side of things, Ward has the versatility to play cornerback on both the outside and inside, as well as his natural safety position. Yet with Colbert and Jaquiski Tartt assuming the starting safety jobs in 2018, Ward moves back to corner after spending 2017 at safety.

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Following the Niners' fourth day of training camp practices on Sunday, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh offered up some tidbits on what the team is looking for out of Ward.

"Jimmie Ward is versatile, can do anything we want him to do," Saleh told reporters after practice, per Niners Nation. "As we get closer to the season we'll address depth chart issues and where to find snaps."

While the 49ers have depth concerns at both safety and cornerback, Ward's practice reps suggest he'll be working primarily at cornerback for the duration of camp and into the preseason. During Saturday's practices, Ward managed to stay physical with wide receiver Marquise Goodwin until Goodwin managed to break away and create separation (h/t Niners Wire's Rob Lowder):


On Sunday, Ward had some similar issues, getting beat again by Goodwin on a full 11-on-11 drill for a 45-yard completion, per 49ers.com's Joe Fann.

According to Saleh, though, it's all part of the readjustment process for Ward. Saleh noted the 49ers are "giving [Ward] every possible snap they can at cornerback since he's re-learning it after playing safety last year."

There's inevitably going to be some rust, and Ward is showing a bit of that early in camp. A year ago, Pro Football Focus awarded Ward a lowly 46.9 overall grade at safety. But PFF gave him a 77.7 and 74.5 overall grade in 2015 and 2016, respectively, when he was at cornerback. Based off this, corner appears to be Ward's stronger positional fit.

Yet it doesn't appear likely he'll usurp cornerbacks Richard Sherman or Ahkello Witherspoon, barring injury or a complete meltdown in camp from one of the Niners' two projected starters.

Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to @PeterPanacy on Twitter.