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And we think we've got a group here that we can get those guys from that group. But only time will tell."
Ward is a piece in the 49ers' secondary puzzle after San Francisco lost its 2013 starters at cornerback, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. Both are now with the Oakland Raiders. The 49ers have lined up Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver and Chris Cook as likely replacements. Ward's competition for the nickel spot probably will come from Perrish Cox, Darryl Morris and the odd man out in the starting cornerback competition.
Training camp will reveal the 49ers' plans for Ward. He's listed as a safety on the San Francisco roster. He earned All American recognition at that position as a senior at Northern Illinois and received the outstanding defensive back honor for the Reese's Senior Bowl as a safety. But the 49ers appear to have drafted Ward with an eye toward using him, at least initially, as a nickelback, slotback or third cornerback, depending on the nomenclature preferred.
situation," Fangio said, "is spend some time in the classroom, go practice, learn what you did good, learn what you didn't do good, get it corrected, learn some new stuff, just keep going through that process. And when you're skipping the practice part, you're skipping the most important part. He's done well. I think he's done everything he can under his circumstances to learn our defense and improve. But he's got to go do it."
Why use a first round pick for a position that's not listed in the starting lineup? In each of the past two seasons, NFL offenses lined up with at least three wide receivers on more than half their snaps. To combat this, NFL defenses had at least five defensive backs on the field just about half the time in 2013.
has been fine, but nothing beats learning on the field, Fangio said.
"We do have to find a nickelback," Fangio said, "and anytime you lose two corners in Rogers and Brown, guys that have basically played every play here for three years, other than when they had a nick here and there, somebody's got to step up and replace them. New Balance 990v3 Vs 990v4
Ward's work in position meetings Fashionable New Balance 410
The 49ers' first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Ward has attended rookie minicamp, OTAs and minicamp, but was unable to participate in the practice drills after having foot surgery in March. He's been cleared to take the field for training camp.
Jimmie Ward gets clearance for training camp
"He has an instinct to react to a play before anyone else sees it," New Balance 998 Red San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said when the 49ers picked Ward.
Ward reported for training camp with the San Francisco rookies on Wednesday.
"He's going to certainly get every opportunity to," Fangio said. "But he's missed all this time, and he's learning and he's a rookie, etc. And we'll all have to be a little patient with him. But he'll certainly get every opportunity to."
Ward will have to earn the job in training camp, though, after missing the offseason workouts.
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"He's got the versatility to play the nickel corner position, we hope," San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Ward, "and we'll see if he can when he competes with the other guys we have here. That's a position in today's game . (that) plays a lot. Our starting nose tackles here the last few years, Isaac Sopoaga and, last year, Glenn Dorsey, our fifth defensive back has played more than those guys have. You've really got 12 starters on defense. You've got your 11 in your 3 4 package, and when you go to your fifth DB, he's also a starter. That guy has played upwards of 60 percent for us in the last few years."
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