49ers’ $40 Million Defender Sends Fiery Warning to Opposing QBs

49ers Panthers

Getty Charvarius Ward and Dre Greenlaw close in on Christian McCaffrey on October 9, 2022.

Twelve quarterbacks on the remaining schedule for the San Francisco 49ers have now been issued a warning.

The verbal caution sign has come from the mouth of a $40 million defender who has proven to be a wise addition to the 49ers — but the same defender who wants to see a change in a certain category.

Charvarius Ward, who’s second in the NFL in passes defensed through the first five games with eight, fired off this hope after the victory over the Carolina Panthers for the last dozen of QBs who will line up against him.

“I just hope they keep targeting me so I start picking some of those balls off,” Ward said via David Lombardi of The Athletic.

How Ward Has Risen in a New Scenery

When the 49ers added Ward and signed him to a a three-year, $40,500,000 deal during the offseason, the decision to lure him in came after watching the rival Los Angeles Rams produce two 100-yard wideouts with the NFC title on the line.

Ward immediately has taken advantage of his new digs in the Bay Area. Along with producing the eight deflections, here’s what else the 27-year-old has accomplished in just five games:

High rankings: For cornerbacks who have played in all five games this season, Ward has the sixth highest coverage ranking at 81.5 per Pro Football Focus. But his tackling grade of 87.3 ranks as the best among eligible cornerbacks.

Limited number of grabs: Nine different CBs are tied for fewest receptions allowed with 14. Ward is on that list, but has the highest coverage grade out of all of them.

Limited yardage: Ward doesn’t allow much after the catch either. His 178 yards surrendered per PFF is tied for third fewest in the NFL and the second fewest among NFC West cornerbacks (Bryon Murphy of Arizona has allowed the least at 174 yards).

Denying six: Ward is yet to surrender his first touchdown as the nearest cover corner while in a 49ers uniform per Pro Football Reference Advanced Stats. The 49ers’ secondary, as a unit, has only surrendered two aerial touchdowns with Ward in the lineup — best in the NFL. And one of the pass breakups he delivered came in the end zone against the Panthers.

‘He’s What we Hoped he Could be Like’

In a free agent market that saw blockbuster wide receiver deals including Deebo Samuel earning a record extension, what flew under the radar was the CB market which included Ward.

Now, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan sounded glad the 49ers took the big swing to get Ward.

“He’s what we hoped he could be like,” Shanahan told reporters before Wednesday’s practice. “He’s been what we hoped for and what we hoped we were going and paying for. I think that’s so hard in free agency. We’ve kind of looked at that almost every year.

“And when you get into free agency, the money gets so high and stuff, and his did too. But to see the player with that money, we thought it would be worth it,” Shanahan continued. “And for him to come and be exactly what we thought has been great. But it’s always hard to do that. It took us a while to be able to do that, but when you do take a swing, you hope you hit, and I really feel like we have.”

One aspect of Ward’s game that has impressed Shanahan: Ward’s field patience.

“I think he’s never out of control,” Shanahan said. “He’s not a guy who misses very much. He’s patient with his hands, patient with his feet. He always seems on top of guys, and he has the speed and length to recover too when he’s not.”

This clip facing Pro Bowler Allen Robinson helps exemplify that statement. “A-Rob” tries to hit Ward with a stutter step and momentarily has the separation advantage. However, Ward ends up winning the battle.

Ward has impressively delivered in his 49ers debut. But he’s sent out the statement to whoever lines up behind center moving forward: Keep testing him, so he can improve on his interception total.

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