49ers

49ers' Ward: Beckham going to fight, but 'not as shifty as Cobb'

ward-jimmie-beckham-odell.jpg

49ers' Ward: Beckham going to fight, but 'not as shifty as Cobb'

Yes, the 49ers considered the possibility of trading up – way up – in the 2014 draft to land Odell Beckham.

But after determining the price of doing business to land the explosive wide receiver was too steep, the 49ers held onto their original selection spot at No. 30. There, they selected defensive back Jimmie Ward.

Beckham has proved worthy of the New York Giants’ selection with the No. 12 overall pick from the moment he stepped onto the field. Ward has yet to distinguish himself on a consistent basis, as he saw action in just eight games as a rookie after sustaining a re-fractured foot.

But Ward is coming off the best game of his NFL career while playing 85 percent of the 49ers’ defensive snaps from the nickel back position against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

“Basically, I’m feeling comfortable coming off that injury with my foot, being able to run around,” Ward said. “I feel like my breaks are on point. I’m still not perfect with it, but I’m trying to chase it. That’s why I take practice so seriously.”

Ward recorded five tackles and broke up an Aaron Rodgers pass in the end zone as the 49ers held the high-powered Packers offense to a season-low 17 points. He was matched in the slot most of the day against Randall Cobb, who caught five passes for just 44 yards.

On Sunday, Ward will see plenty of Beckham. The Giants line up with three wide receivers for three-quarters of their snaps, and Beckham is most often positioned in the slot.

Ward said he realized while studying to face Cobb that when Rodgers keeps a play alive with his scrambling, Ward had to remain transfixed on Cobb. The moment cornerbacks turn to look back at the quarterback, Cobb breaks off his route and Rodgers finds him.

“That carries over to this game,” Ward said. “Odell gets in the slot and he’s shifty a little bit, but not as shifty as Cobb. I see he has some of the same traits. If it’s s scramble route, he’s going to go the opposite way.

“He (Beckham) goes and gets the ball. He comes back for it. He’s going to get the ball no matter what. If the ball goes out of bounds, he’s still going to catch it. He’s trying to build that rhythm, too. He feels like he’s going to catch any ball that the quarterback throws to him. He’s a feisty player. He’s going to fight the whole game.”

Beckham has quickly become the central figure of the Giants’ passing game for quarterback Eli Manning. In 16 career games, Beckham has 115 receptions for 1,612 yards, figures that rank as the most ever for an NFL player in the first 16 games of his career. Beckham also has 14 touchdown catches.

Beckham and Ward are both listed at 5 foot 11, so Ward is not at a height disadvantage. But Beckham is adept at making leaping catches over defensive backs that are even taller than him. Ward realizes he has to be ready to make aggressive plays on the ball against Beckham.

“Normally, the person who wins the battle is the one who leaves the ground first,” Ward said. “If he beats me off the ground, I got to play to his hands. If I beat him off the ground, I just have to catch the ball and make a play.”

It’s a tough assignment, to be sure. But Ward is certain to be well-prepared for the assignment. The second-year player from Northern Illinois has distinguished himself for his practice habits and attention to detail. Defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said it’s a common practice for Ward to seek out defensive backs coach Tim Lewis on team flights to go over the minutiae of the team’s game plan.

“He’s going to make sure he’s got it all down and you love that about him,” Mangini said. “And then, sometimes you know he’s got it all down, but it’s checking that list off a couple different times. (It's) really, really a great trait from a young player.”

Ward said he is always thinking about his craft – to the point that he will awaken in the middle of the night and wonder about what he needs to do if the opponent runs a certain route combination that he has yet to see on film.

“I just want to know, in case it happens in the game,” Ward said. "The offensive coordinator might not call that play, but if I think about it because it might something that leads to me making a big play in the game.”

How Seahawks' Russell Wilson beat 49ers' pass rush with play-action

russplayactionap.jpg
AP

How Seahawks' Russell Wilson beat 49ers' pass rush with play-action

The 49ers got to Russell Wilson in Monday night's 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Wilson was sacked a season-high five times at Levi's Stadium, posting his second-worst passer rating of 2019 (86.9) and a season-low 43.6 QBR. He also threw his second interception of the season and fumbled for the first time since Week 4. 

Yet Wilson did just enough to remain effective in spite of that pressure, showing why he is an MVP frontrunner when he led the Seahawks to their game-winning field-goal drive in overtime. Wilson also employed plenty of misdirection to keep the 49ers' dominant pass rush at bay, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. 

On the season, the 49ers have pressured QBs on 29.7 percent of dropbacks. That 17 percent pressure rate on play-action plays would be 30th-best in the NFL if extended over a full season, just behind the Cincinnati Bengals (17.1 percent) and just ahead of the Oakland Raiders (15.9 percent). 

For reference, those two teams have combined for five fewer sacks (30) than the 49ers have all season. 

Wilson's play-action success could give opposing teams something of a blueprint, and that could trip up the 49ers in their own division down the stretch. In addition to playing the Seahawks once more, the 49ers also will play the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16 at Levi's. Rams coach Sean McVay loves using play-action, and the Rams were far more efficient last season on play-action passes than traditional ones. The Rams have taken a step back this season and the 49ers kept LA's offense in check in Week 6, but play-action remains a big part of the Rams' offense and the 49ers will have to be ready for it.

[RELATED: 49ers ready to focus on Cardinals after tough Seahawks loss]

It doesn't stop with the Seahawks and Rams. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is known for his play-action abilities, too, while Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers also have been better in play-action this season. The 49ers play Green Bay and Arizona in each of the next two weeks. 

San Francisco has a difficult slate of QBs remaining on its schedule, including ones who succeed where Wilson did Monday night. That's one additional area the 49ers will have to shore up down the stretch. 

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo's 'bad night' surprised NBC Sports' Peter King

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo's 'bad night' surprised NBC Sports' Peter King

Despite the 49ers not suffering their first loss until Week 10, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with his play in 2019.

He has done enough to lead his team to victories in all but one game this season, but the 49ers haven’t had to ask much of their signal-caller thanks to a dominant defense and a highly-potent running game.

His first chance to make a statement against a great team in prime time didn’t go as expected, as Garoppolo was just above a 50 percent completion percentage and had his worst QB rating (66.2) of the year in Monday night’s 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

"At one point, I remember looking up at the TV, and I said, 'I cannot remember Jimmy Garoppolo playing with happy feet like this,'" King told Mike Florio and Chris Simms of Pro Football Talk. "Look, this is whatever, like his 18th NFL start, so we don't really know him yet, but that was a bad night for Jimmy Garoppolo and for 49ers fans who want to love him, who want to have faith in him."

The 49ers might have fallen in the team’s first true test of 2019, but there are plenty of worthy opponents on the horizon for San Francisco.

[RELATED: Why 49ers fans should be optimistic after loss to Seahawks]

After hosting the Cardinals in Week 11, San Francisco will take on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in a recently flexed matchup on "Sunday Night Football," followed up by trips to Baltimore and New Orleans in consecutive weeks.

So there will be ample opportunity for Jimmy G and his squad to rebound in front of a prime-time audience.