Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers vs. Browns: Could Jimmie Ward replace Tarvarius Moore?

Oct 4, 2019 at 2:26 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers have a decision to make in the defensive backfield for Monday night's matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Should Tarvarius Moore start or should the coaching staff give Jimmie Ward another chance to prove himself?

Moore was the talk of the town -- at least when it comes to safeties -- during training camp and the preseason. He was raw but talented. Moore, a third-round pick last year, seemed to have so much potential that the 49ers were willing to part ways with former starting safety Adrian Colbert.

"Tarvarius Moore, although he's had his struggles, he's brought speed to our defense," general manager John Lynch said during a KNBR interview on Thursday. "Now, we get Jimmie Ward back."

Moore looked solid during Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but gave up big touchdowns to John Ross and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the two weeks that followed after taking bad angles against the receivers.

"Tarvarius can get a lot better at angles and tracking," defensive coordinator Robert Saleh told reporters on Friday. "His issue isn't tracking. There's two types of tracking a middle-third safety has to take.

"There's the 'get on course,' which is when the ball is thrown, they get on course to eliminate if one of the DBs loses a one-on-one and it's that middle-third safety's job to get on course and knock that thing down so it doesn't crease us.

"Then, the second part is tracking in the run game, where if the ball does break the front seven or the box, his job is to track near hip and tackle that so that way those runs don't become explosive. That's why he's called the eraser. He erases all the mistakes that happen in front of him.

"So, for Tarvarius, the tracking in the run game is really good. He's got to improve his tracking out of the middle of the field when he gets on course."

Saleh says Moore is working on improving that aspect of his game, and the defensive coordinator is convinced the second-year defender will improve.

Of course, Saleh also noted that Ward excels at tracking, which brings up the question of whether or not the 49ers might make a change for Monday night.

"Jimmie's good. He's pretty good at tracking," Saleh said.

Ward was projected to be the 49ers' starting free safety until he got his hand caught on another player's jersey during practice and suffered a broken finger before the regular-season opener. Ward has missed 24 games over the past four seasons due to injuries with four of his first five NFL seasons ending on injured reserve.

Ward's cast over his hand has gotten smaller since the injury and the defensive back could be close to returning after being inactive for the first three games of the season.

Saleh believes that Ward is still one of the defense's best 11 players and suggested that he is being considered to start at free safety against the Browns. He didn't, however, want to give anything away just yet.

"His versatility allows us the ability to use him in many different ways," Saleh noted. "I guess everyone will find out on Monday."

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