Stopping the run is – DJ Khaled voice – a major key for the San Francisco 49ers defense this week.
Jimmie Ward, who said he expects to be suited up for the first time in three weeks at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made that abundantly clear when speaking with the media.
"We need to make them one dimensional," the third-year pro said. "Stop the run, point blank. Period."
Ward has been sidelined with a quadriceps injury that he sustained while covering a kick in a Week 3 road loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
"You don't like to see your team losing, so that's why I'm happy to be back this week," he said.
Stopping the run will be easier said than done for a 49ers defense without starting inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Ray-Ray Armstrong. After bottling up Los Angeles Rams Pro Bowler Todd Gurley in Week 1, the unit has given up five-straight, 100-yard rushers while falling to 32nd in rush defense. The group allowed 312 rushing yards and four rushing scores in the team's fifth consecutive defeat last week against the Buffalo Bills.
The potential addition of Ward gives the defense another play-maker against a Bucs offense led by second-year signal-caller Jameis Winston.
Tampa Bay will likely be without two of its top offensive threats. Running back Doug Martin had a setback with the hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined since Week 2. The Bucs also placed Vincent Jackson (knee) on Injured Reserve this week.
Should the 49ers contain backup runner Jaquizz Rodgers, Winston will look to the team's leading target in the passing game.
"They're going to go to their play-maker," Ward said. "That's number 13. He's their star receiver."
Evans, the third-year pro, leads the Bucs with 32 catches for 449 receiving yards and four touchdown grabs.
Ward also pointed to second-year pro Adam Humphries (20 catches, 216 receiving yards) as another threat.
Ward could face both players on Sunday. Rookie Rashard Robinson remains in the NFL's concussion protocol. Ward has resumed practicing at both corner and nickel back this week. Tramaine Brock and Keith Reasers are also in line for significant roles against the Bucs.
"(I'm) back to the usual," Ward said. "Right now everything has been going good."
The defensive back said he's awaiting the team doctors to give him the green light. But as of now, Ward is expecting to be full-go for Week 7.
"I feel good so far," the defender said. "I'm just trying to get my feet wet – knock some of the cobwebs off.
"I've had rest for three weeks, so I'm trying to get back into a rhythm."