Rams vs. 49ers: 5 Week 1 Matchups to Watch for San Francisco on Monday Night Football

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San Francisco 49ers
January 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers strong safety Jimmie Ward (25) runs the football during the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Rams 19-16. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 5: DB Jimmie Ward vs. WR Tavon Austin

Fourth-year wide receiver Tavon Austin has yet to live up to his first-round draft status. The lack of a true established Rams quarterback over the last three seasons has likely hindered Austin’s impact. But a career-high 473 receiving yards last season is indication the 5-foot-9 receiver isn’t getting the job done.

He’ll want a fresh start in 2016. Yet with quarterback Case Keenum trying to throw him the ball, will Austin emerge as a major factor?

One of the guys trying to ensure this doesn’t happen will be 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward.

Ward will be on the outside in base formations. But head coach Jeff Fisher’s squad will likely be operating Austin out of the slot. According to Ryan Sakamoto of NinerFans.com, Ward could easily shift back inside to the nickel and operate as the primary coverage guy against Austin.

Ward was one of the better cast members of San Francisco’s secondary, and it’s no secret defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil wants him on the field as much as possible.

Look for this to be a factor in the 49ers pass defense.

Next: DE Arik Armstead vs. RG Jamon Brown