Notebook: Jimmie Ward, Arik Armstead Make Big Plays, Defensive Depth Chart Updates

Day 2 of 49ers training camp saw the team's recent first-round draft picks continue to excel in 11-on-11 periods.

Enter Jimmie Ward and Arik Armstead.

The first-team cornerback and defensive lineman each made disruptive plays at Monday's camp session. Ward stepped in front of a short throw in the right flat for a 20-yard pick-six. Armstead, meanwhile, recorded a pair of would-be tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Ward's interception stood as the only takeaway of the day and was a result of re-watching Sunday's opening camp practice.

"That's a correction that was made," Ward told reporters. "They beat me on that route yesterday."

This time around, however, the third-year defensive back disguised his coverage and jumped on the quick pass.

"We were in man coverage, man free," Ward began. "I just disguised and kind of confused the quarterback. Then I jumped outside to the leverage I was supposed to have. I knew where my help was, and he ended up throwing me the ball."

Easy stuff, right?

The truth is that Ward's attention to detail and passion for film study has helped him transition from slot cornerback and reserve safety to a potential starting cornerback.

"He's our starting corner, right now, opposite Tramaine Brock," defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said prior to the workout. "We are still training him inside at nickel. But again, our depth chart right now is written in sand."

San Francisco's cornerback competition throughout the roster remains fluid. The DC said the team would continue to rotate spots on defense, including nickel cornerback. O'Neil added that the 49ers would utilize matchups when determining where cornerbacks would line up in the regular season.

"We're in that evaluation mode," O'Neil said. "Whoever are our two starting corners, they might just be better off going left-right. They might be better off matching (up with a receiver). We're rolling it every day in practice."Armstead Continues to Excel

First-team reps give an added swagger to a football player. Just ask last year's first-round selection.

Armstead built on a positive start to camp with a few more eye-catching plays in the backfield. In the opening 11-on-11 period, Armstead knifed up the field to get in front of Pierre Garçon's way.

"Just playing football," the 6-foot-7 defender said. "(I) saw a run play, got up the field and accidently ran into him."

Armstead and others will get a better chance to showcase their physicality when the pads come on for the first time in camp on Tuesday. But for now, Armstead showed more signs of growth.

"I'm a lot more comfortable," he said. "I've been studying a lot. (Defensive line) Coach (Jerry Azzinaro) has helped me a lot, making me comfortable out there, being myself and playing freely. I think it's working."Perhaps a glimpse of what's to come on the d-line was seeing Armstead and DeForest Buckner flank Quinton Dial as the team's base-down linemen. The 49ers will look to mix and match various personnel groupings in camp. Reuniting Armstead and his former college teammate makes sense in the summer evaluation process."I think we can be very good," Armstead said of the combination. "We have a lot of guys on the d-line that can play. I'm sure they're going to keep mixing it up and see what best group fits together. It'll be a long process figuring that out, so it'll be fun playing with a bunch of different people. We're all real close and have good chemistry. They can mix up the lineup and it'll run smoothly."
Niner Notes , who will miss the first four games of the year. "He's the type of player that you build a defense around, just how dynamic he can be," the coach said. "But it's an opportunity for some guys to step up. We're going to play the best 11." O'Neil pointed to Eli Harold and Corey Lemonier as possible replacement and added that he'll look to mix in different players and schemes to offset the loss of Lynch.

– The DC said that Chris Davis, Keith Reaser and third-round draft pick Will Redmond are vying to be the slot cornerback in nickel personnel. O'Neil also said starting safety Eric Reid would see some playing as a slot defender against heavier offensive personnel groupings

As for Davis, O'Neil explained what the former Auburn standout accomplished in the offseason to make himself an option on nickel. "He's smart, tough, makes plays. He does a good job executing the coverages. ... He's one of the guys I'm really looking forward to seeing how he progresses through training camp with the pads on."

– Former 49ers defensive end Andre Carter continues to work with some of the team's edge-rushing talent. O'Neil explained the benefits of the relationship between coaching intern and player. "Dre's been great, and anytime you have a player that's had so much success in the league and rushing the quarterback, it's good to have that guy, to be able to do some individual and watch tape with you. 'Hey, these were some of the tricks that I was able to have success with,' and just share that knowledge with some of the younger guys. He's been awesome for us."

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