49ers secondary in flux after Jimmie Ward injury, Darqueze Dennard's release

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Injuries are part of training camp, but they’re starting to pile up in the 49ers secondary.

Coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters Monday that starting free safety Jimmie Ward is in danger of missing Week 1 due to a hamstring strain.

“Jimmie Ward pulled his hamstring a little worse than the other guys so he is going to be some time,” Shanahan said. “It was a pretty bad hamstring injury and it's not like the other two guys, so we'll see over here over the next couple weeks how it plays out.”

Hammys have been hindering the team all camp, as starting cornerback Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley are also dealing with hamstring strains, along with running back Elijah Mitchell and offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill.

The 49ers also started shaving down their roster and raised some eyebrows by cutting veteran cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who had been running with the No. 1s at nickelback in camp. It’s good news for rookie fifth-rounder Samuel Womack, who picked off two passes in his impressive NFL preseason debut out of the slot. For now, the nickelback job looks like Womack’s out of the gate. Dennard’s early release also gives him a chance to latch on with another team in camp.

The 49ers secondary is in flux. Talanoa Hufanga has the inside track on the strong safety job, while Ward’s absence will also open up opportunities for others like Tarvarius Moore and George Odum for playing time at free safety.

“We have George, who's done a good job,” Shanahan said. “We probably will have to add some more people there, especially with [CB] Dontae [Johnson], because Dontae has done a real good job also. But he might be out this week too with his rib cartilage, so we'll see how it goes with the roster. We might move our nickels around a little bit just for some guys, but hopefully we'll get some more guys in here soon.”

Shanahan added that the competition between Moore and Odum is “neck-and-neck” to fill in for Jimmie Ward.

Charvarius Ward and Moseley sat out Friday’s preseason opener against the Packers, as veterans Ambry Thomas and Ka’Dar Hollman got the start. Other notable injuries on defense include defensive tackle Arik Armstead, who is rehabbing from a knee sprain early in camp.

The 49ers are headed to Minnesota this week for joint practices before Saturday’s preseason matchup. Shanahan said he expects to hold out starters like Trey Lance from Game 2 before playing them in Game 3 against the Houston Texans on Aug. 25, citing the short turnaround time between games.

The 49ers will travel to the Windy City to face the Chicago Bears for Week 1 on Sept. 12, though the secondary wouldn’t be the same without Jimmie Ward, who recently checked in at No. 96 in the NFL’s 2022 Top 100 rankings.