Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Why George Kittle loves going against Jimmie Ward; 49ers safety forecasts ‘Pick City’

Aug 9, 2022 at 3:31 PM--

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle joined KNBR after Tuesday's practice and started the conversation by praising a defensive teammate—Jimmie Ward. Ward might be the most underrated player on a defense boasting stars Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. The 49ers tight end knows how valuable the veteran safety is for the team, though.

"I said [in a previous interview] Jimmie Ward might be one of the most underrated players in the NFL," Kittle said on the Papa & Lund show. "... When it's man coverage, you don't want Jimmie Ward on you because he's quick, he's physical, and he's really, really fast. He's got great hands, and he knows how to hold without getting holding calls. He's very good at that.

"I'm very blessed to be able to go against someone like him every single day because he plays very, very well in every type of man coverage. He's great in the zone. He's really good at reading stuff, very good at faking, making the quarterback think he's not where he's going to be.

"He's a hell of a competitor, and he always talks too. You always hear him chirping the whole time. He has fake calls. He'll just start saying things. You should see when we're doing walk-throughs, and he's not even in. He'll just call out some of our offensive plays. Sometimes he's dead wrong, but that guy is always talking; he's always communicating. As long as you have 11 guys doing the same thing, whether it's right or wrong, it's usually going to work pretty well."

Kittle said Ward's one-on-one plays usually involve the safety going against wide receivers like Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Jauan Jennings.

"He's going against guys that can move, get on edges, and get open," Kittle continued. "And then during the move-the-ball periods, and just man coverage, he's usually on me when we do team stuff. So it's fun to just be able to go against someone who can cover everybody."

Ward acknowledges that he doesn't get the respect he should despite, as Kittle pointed out, consistently practicing against wide receivers during one-on-ones.

"When I look at the news, when I look at ESPN and all the posts, I see people talking about ... they give the credit to Derwin James (Chargers safety)," Ward shared. "'Oh, Derwin James, he can cover this guy, this guy, and that guy.' But I'm like, 'Man, I've only seen Derwin James covering Keenan Allen. Keenan Allen is a good wide receiver, but the guy runs a 4.7, a 4.8. He's quick, now. He's shifty. That's what you've got to be prepared for [against] him.

"Derwin James, he's a great safety. Don't get me wrong on that. But I don't see him guarding more than just Keenan Allen, from what I've seen. ... You check my resume; it's not too many people getting me in coverage, whether it's a wide receiver or tight end."

Ward forecasts a great upcoming season, his ninth with the 49ers and in the NFL. The safety hauled in a career-high two interceptions last season. The defense as a whole had nine. However, Ward expects more of himself and San Francisco's secondary in 2022.

"I see Pick City," Ward declared. "I'm calling it out. I'm going to have T-shirts made. Pick City. I've got to speak it into existence. Guys are looking good, especially on the outside. [Charvarius Ward] and [Emmanuel Moseley], oh my God. And then [Deommodore Lenoir] and [Ambry Thomas], they've got a lot of experience. Ka'dar [Hollman], he's been doing some good things. He came from the Packers. I like him.

"Tariq [Castro-Fields]—another young guy. I like his game. [Qwuantrezz] Knight, I think he came from UCLA ... I like the corners that we have right now. But the name of the game; it's all about staying healthy. ... If we can stay healthy, we'll be [good]."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Kittle below.

You can listen to the entire conversation with Ward below.

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