Cornerback Jimmie Ward likely will miss the 49ers’ game Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys because of a leg injury. His replacement? It depends on who most looks the part in practice.
In the run-up to the 49ers’ game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2, rookie Rashard Robinson stood out and received the bulk of the snaps that went to the 49ers’ No. 3 cornerback. Before the game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Keith Reaser had the edge in practice and took over after Ward was hurt.
Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said the competition between Reaser and Robinson will continue this week.
“If they want it to be week-to-week every week, that’s on them,” O’Neil said Tuesday. “If somebody wants to establish themselves as the solid No. 2 or 3 outside (cornerback), then go do that. I’m all for it.”
Ward strained a quadriceps Sunday and did not practice Tuesday. The 49ers termed his status week-to-week.
Whoever replaces Ward will make his first NFL start against a Cowboys team that’s 2-1 with a rookie, fourth-round draft pick Dak Prescott, at quarterback.
Prescott has just one touchdown pass. But he’s completed 66.7 percent of his attempts with no interceptions. His 99 attempts without an interception would be an NFL record for a rookie quarterback except the Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz, drafted second overall, doesn’t have an interception in 102 attempts. The Eagles are 3-0.
“He’s not playing like a rookie quarterback right now,” O’Neil said of Prescott. “He’s playing like a quarterback that’s been in the league for four or five years.”
Prescott’s favorite target has been wide receiver Cole Beasley, who has 20 catches for 213 yards. Dallas’ top wideout – and the one likely to be matched at times against the 49ers’ to-be-announced cornerback – is Dez Bryant, who has 11 catches for 150 yards.
The 49ers selected Robinson in the fourth round, two spots before the Cowboys took Prescott. The two faced each other in 2014 when Robinson was with LSU and Prescott was at Mississippi State, which won 34-29 in Baton Rouge, La. Prescott passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 105 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown.
LSU was ranked No. 8 at the time, and Mississippi State ended a 14-game losing streak to the Tigers.
“Dak is a nice quarterback,” Robinson said. “He has a pretty strong arm. He’s a mobile quarterback. That’s one thing I remember of him from Mississippi State – he was pretty mobile.”
Robinson had two tackles in that game but left after being stomped in the groin by Mississippi State center Dillon Day, who was suspended for one game for the incident. The 49ers drafted Prescott’s college teammate, cornerback Will Redmond, in the third round this year. Redmond is on injured reserve because of an ACL injury suffered in college.
Seven weeks before the draft, Prescott was arrested and charged with DUI in Starkville, Miss., an incident that likely lowered his draft stock. In July, he was found not guilty of that charge and of speeding.
The 49ers drafted Reaser in the fifth round in 2014 despite an ACL issue. After spending his rookie year on the non-football injury list, Reaser appeared in 13 games last season, recording eight tackles.
After Ward was injured Sunday, Reaser played a career-high 48 snaps, most of them in the second half.
“I thought I covered well for the most part,” Reaser said. “Definitely some things to improve on. Overall, I think I did pretty decent.”