The rich keep getting richer.
Kyle Shanahan at his Tuesday conference call revealed that Jimmie Ward and Jason Verrett are set to return to practice on Wednesday. Whether the two will be able to be active for the Week 5 matchup with the Panthers is still a toss up. Either way, the 49ers defense is going to receive some hefty quality in Ward and Verrett.
However, finding a role for these two is a bit difficult. With how astronomically elite the 49ers are performing defensively right now, it almost seems like a risk to shuffle anything. So what will the roles for Ward and Verrett be in their return to the 49ers defense?
It is going to take some time for both of them to find their game shape and that could be counter-productive in the short-term for the 49ers. Talanoa Hufanga is playing like the best safety in the league, while Tashaun Gipson has gone far and beyond what anyone could've expected.
With Ward, I would anticipate him playing in his outfield safety position on early downs, while Hufanga hovers anywhere within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Best part of Hufanga and Ward is they're interchangeable, so DeMeco Ryans can trick offenses by faking their alignments. For third own or against elite slot players, Ward will drop down and cover at nickel with Hufanga up top. But again, Ryans can play with this here as Hufanga has looked fine in man-to-man coverage. Gaining Ward is only going to add a new and unfair element with the 49ers defense.
It won't be difficult to find a role for Ward. What will be difficult is when it comes to the role of Verrett. Let's get the idea of Verrett being a contributor out of the way. Expecting anything from him is already a fantasy. The only way he finds a role on the defense is if Emmanuel Moseley or Charvarius Ward suffer an injury. Aside from that, Verrett will not see the field as I am sure the 49ers will integrate Verrett at a snail's pace considering his injury history.
The idea of pushing Moseley into the slot and inserting Verrett outside is ridiculous. I have never agreed with that. It makes zero sense to play Moseley out of position when he is already playing at a high level on the outside, especially for Verrett who likely is going to struggle or get injured again. Plus, the slot corners have been more than fine for the 49ers. Samuel Womack III when he started the first two games was solid in the slot. Deommodore Lenoir has only increased the performance there after taking over Womack, so there is no need to kick Moseley inside for Verrett. That will drastically weaken the 49ers defense.
Charvarius "Mooney" Ward has been worth every single dollar in his contract that he signed in March. And Moseley is looking like the breakout player that I had been pounding the table for all offseason. So long as his health is steady, he will be great and the secondary of the 49ers will be elite all around. Until health becomes an issue, then Verrett will be in the bullpen getting up to speed.