49ers better hope Jimmie Ward, K’Waun Williams return vs. Rams

K'Waun Williams #24 and Jimmie Ward #20 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
K'Waun Williams #24 and Jimmie Ward #20 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

51. Fox. 12-4. 4:25 p.m. ET. 9-7. 42. Sunday, Jan. 9. Rams -4

The 49ers secondary has been hit hard by COVID ahead of Week 18 versus the Rams, and Jimmie Ward and K’Waun Williams better return in time.

For the most part, and unlike a bulk of teams around the league this season, the San Francisco 49ers have been relatively lucky with avoiding the COVID bug.

Yet all that appeared to change in advance of the Niners’ regular-season finale in Week 18 against the Los Angeles Rams, a game that could ultimately decide whether or not head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad makes it into the playoffs as a Wild Card team this year.

A number of San Francisco players, namely ones in the secondary, found themselves on the reserve/COVID-19 list shortly after the team’s Week 17 win over the Houston Texans.

As of now, the following players are listed:

The 49ers’ cornerback room has widely been viewed as the team’s biggest weakness this season, despite the fact the Niners have surrendered only 3,309 pass yards this year, fifth best in the NFL ahead of Week 18.

A big reason why is Ward, known as “The Eraser,” and his presence against a 12-4 Rams squad competing for the NFC West crown this Sunday will be vital.

49ers need Jimmie Ward, K’Waun Williams to return vs. Rams

If there’s some good news here, the bulk of players who ended up on the reserve/COVID list this week tested positive early, meaning there’s a decent chance they’ll be able to come back against LA even if they’re unable to practice during the week.

Ward, who intercepted Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford twice during San Francisco’s one-sided 31-10 win over Los Angeles back in Week 10, provides a stabilizing presence over the top of an otherwise questionable defensive backfield.

Yet he’s not the only member who’ll be crucial for the 49ers’ defensive efforts.

Williams, one of the more underrated nickel cornerbacks in the league, could frequently find himself matched up against LA’s top-notch wide receiver, Cooper Kupp, who leads the league in receptions (138), receiving yards (1,829) and receiving touchdowns (15). The Rams love featuring Kupp out of the slot, and Williams is surely one of the Niners’ best options on the roster to match up against him.

49ers could get some good news with Emmanuel Moseley return

Hoping players like Ward and Williams return off the reserve/COVID list is one thing, and San Francisco could be receiving some reinforcements elsewhere, too.

Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who has been out with an ankle injury since Week 13 against the Seattle Seahawks and was subsequently placed on injured reserve, saw his practice window opened this week and might be able to make a return in time for Sunday’s game.

Read More: Trey Lance needs to be Niners starting QB vs. Rams

Should Moseley be able to play, it’ll open up a key question for the 49ers, particularly if Thomas also returns off the reserve/COVID list. The Niners may decide the third-round rookie, who has steadily shown improvement ever since being inserted in the starting role in Week 14 after Moseley went down, is a better option over the veteran, Josh Norman, who was benched late in Week 17’s win over the Houston Texans.

Either way, Moseley’s possible return should be viewed as a boost for a San Francisco defense that will face off against a Rams team that is averaging 7.4 pass yards per play this season, third highest in the NFL to date.

The 49ers and Rams kick off from SoFI Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 9 at 4:25 p.m. ET.

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