Editor's note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Cowboys matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m., at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
49ers S Jimmie Ward vs. Cowboys WR Cole Beasley
Tale of the tape
Ward (25): 5 foot 11, 193 pounds, rookie, Northern Illinois
Beasley (11): 5 foot 8, 180 pounds, third season, Southern Methodist
The 49ers did not envision Ward as a starting safety when they selected him with the No. 30 overall selection in the draft. The team needed a player to cover the slot receiver, and that is the job Ward has earned to open his rookie season.
Beasley had 39 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns as the Cowboys’ slot receiver last season. He figures to be a lot more involved this season as his chemistry with quarterback Tony Romo has grown.
With so much focus of the focus on wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten, the 49ers figure to leave Ward alone on Beasley whenever the 49ers are in their nickel defense. Ward is much more physical than his size suggests. He will try to get his hands on Beasley within the legal 5-yard zone and disrupt the timing on those critical third-down plays.