What Jimmie Ward sees in Talanoa Hufanga

Jimmie Ward is the senior-most member of the 49ers secondary. With Jaquiski Tartt not returning to San Francisco this season, it will be on Ward to take on a mentorship role with second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga. It’s a role that Ward has embraced.

“I realize what’s real, and what’s real is right now I have more experience,” said Ward after OTA practice Tuesday afternoon. “So, if I can catch him (Hufanga) up and help coach him and try to give him some of the knowledge that I know, that will make me and him equal. That will raise my game up just because I can count on him, and he’s going to make me better.”

Hufanga made three starts during his rookie season while playing in 15 games. The veteran believes that experience will help Hufanga in 2022.

“Him seeing the game from last year got him comfortable for this year,” said Ward. “He’s covering, he has great angles in the run fit, and he knows his stuff.”

San Francisco 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward (1) chases Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) during the NFL NFC Championship game, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022 in Inglewood, Calif. The Rams defeated the 49ers 20-17. (AP Photo/Doug Benc)

Hufanga was the third player selected by the 49ers in the fifth round of the 2021 draft. His wild hair and playing safety at USC have led some to compare him to Troy Palomalu. He may never reach that level; however, the young safety has proven to be a quick study. In fact, during one play on Tuesday, Hufanga’s communication saved Ward from making a mistake.

“Huf is a great guy. Talks a lot, heavy on the communication,” noted Ward. “There was one play today where I ended up forgetting the rotation call. I was so locked in, and Huf got my attention. Just like that, I could have bust, but he has enough experience.”

Ward and Hufanga started two games together in 2021, victories at Chicago and against the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers came out on each game’s winning side, and Ward recorded his only two interceptions of the regular season in that Rams contest.

San Francisco has several of the top quarterbacks in the NFL on their schedule for 2022. They will need the new combination at safety to not miss a beat if they are to return to the playoffs.

This article has 8 Comments

  1. Hello Jack. I am excited to see how much Talanoa Hufanga improves this season. I think he will be thinking a lot less about his assignments and making more big plays.

    If you read this, can you ask the IT department to modernize the website? It’s weird having to enter an email address. I just make one up anyway. Thanks.

  2. I like Huf’s gentleness and humility. He was solid on special teams last year but was out of position as safety on several plays. Is he more a linebacker? He plays well up on the line but takes bad angles on distant safety plays. Anyway, I hope he is successful. Tartt may yet return if he goes unsigned.

    but, in the end, I have to like the man before I like him as a player.

  3. Hufanga is a play maker. He most certainly will give up some TD’s over his head but his ball skills will overshadow his mistakes. After the NFCCG it’s not hard to envision him being accountable when it matters most.

  4. I really like Hufanga but my impression is he simply does not have enough speed to be a starting safety in the NFL. Smarts, desire, and experience can only overcome so much deficiency in speed. I do think he can be a pro bowler on special teams but I just don’t see him as a starting caliber safety.

    1. Tarvarius Moore weakens your argument.

      Talanoa Hufanga – 4.61
      Jam Chancellor – 4.69
      Deshaun Goldson – 4.65
      Brian Dawkins – 4.59
      Ed Reed – 4.57
      Harrison Smith – 4.57
      Kyle Hamilton – 4.59

  5. * IMO, If Tarvarius Moore has recovered from the Achilles tear, the safety job for 2022 is likely his to lose.
    * He has shown the capability of making splash plays and was challenging for the job before the injury.
    * He also ran a 4.32 40-yard time at his 2018 pro day, which helped him get drafted in Round 3 of the NFL draft.
    * Moore is a FA in 2023, so he is playing on a 9er one year prove-it-deal, for $965,000.

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