SANTA CLARA -- If all goes as planned for Jimmie Ward's rookie season, he'll have settled in as the slot cornerback before arguably the toughest stretch of the 49ers' schedule, Oct. 13-Nov. 16.
Here's what slot receivers Ward likely will encounter in that span:
Oct. 13, at Rams: Tavon Austin, who had 30 receptions for 207 yards and two touchdowns from just the slot last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Oct. 19, at Broncos: Wes Welker (57-688-2 in the slot) and Eric Decker (32-350-2). Welker had the league's second-most receptions from the slot, behind only the Titans' Kendall Wright (63-694-2).
Nov. 2, vs. Rams: After the bye, the 49ers have a rematch with their NFC West foe. Austin had only six receptions for 31 yards in his two games combined against the 49ers last season.
Nov. 9, at Saints: Marques Colston (44-590-5) and Brandin Cooks (first-round draft pick out of Oregon State).
Nov. 16, at Giants: Victor Cruz (43-561-3).
Of the 10 receivers who had the most receptions from the slot last season, the 49ers only face three: Welker, Colston and Cruz.
However, Ward & Co. will encounter several others who had at least 30 receptions in the slot: Brandon Marshall (Bears), Eddie Royal (Chargers), Santana Moss (Washington), Doug Baldwin (Seahawks), Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals), Jason Avant (Eagles) and Andre Roberts (Redskins). There's also the Seahawks' Percy Harvin, who's been hindered by injuries the past two seasons.
Rounding out the top-10 receivers from the slot in 2013: Julian Edelman (Patriots), Harry Douglas (Falcons), T.Y. Hilton (Colts), Danny Amendola (Patriots), Jordy Nelson (Packers) and Stevie Johnson (Bills).
No. 11 on the list: Anquan Boldin, who had 40 receptions for 637 yards and a touchdown from the slot. Not a bad guy for Ward to practice against in training camp.