For as much as the 49ers had to defend Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason, they have spent plenty of time doing the same for safety Jimmie Ward.
Time and time again, coach Kyle Shanahan has expressed his confidence in Ward. General manager John Lynch had no interest in trading for star safety Jamal Adams, and Ward had a lot to do with that. While Adams, now with the Seattle Seahawks, tops Pro Football Focus' list of safeties heading into the 2020 NFL season, Ward did crack the top 25.
In fact, Ward comes in at No. 22 overall, right behind Landon Collins of the Washington Football Team.
"Ward has had an interesting career, to say the least," PFF's Ben Linsey wrote. "Four of his six NFL seasons have been cut short by injury, and he had been a cornerback in the only other seasons in which he played 500-plus snaps prior to last year (2015 and 2016). Last year, however, Ward was excellent as the 49ers’ starting free safety.
"The 49ers allowed just 10 completions on passes 20 or more yards downfield during the 2019 regular season -- the fewest in the NFL by six -- and Ward gets a lot of the credit for that with his 84.9 overall grade on the season."
Ward, 29, only has played all 16 regular-season games once in his career. He missed the first three games of the regular season last year, and played 16 total, including the playoffs. The former first-round draft pick recorded a career-high 65 tackles, had one sack and eight passes defensed.
While Ward is versatile, he's entrenched as the 49ers' starting free safety. But he could play a larger role this year in Robert Saleh's defense. The 49ers trust Ward all over the field.
Ward doesn't come with the star power like Adams. In PFF's rankings, he's the third-best safety in the NFC West. But that doesn't matter to the 49ers. They trust him, and certainly expect him to play better than the 22nd-best safety in football.