Browns: Is Denzel Ward a day-one starter at cornerback?
With the Cleveland Browns trying to rapidly improve their defense, there have been a whirlwind of new acquisitions in the secondary. All things considered, can No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward be a starter on his first day in the league?
Now that draft and free agency season looks to have (finally) calmed down, it’s time for Cleveland Browns fans to have “the talk.” You know the one. Let’s just call it…the Denzel Ward conversation.
It’s not secret that the Browns had a gold rush to add to their secondary in the off-season. Additionally, the Browns held No. 4 spot in the 2018 NFL Draft. They shocked everyone by passing on consensus pick, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb, for another cornerback in Ohio State’s Denzel Ward.
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So, hold on just a second, what’s the big idea? Nearly two months ago, I wrote a piece on the current Browns cornerback situation, expecting them to “cut the fat” from this secondary. And yet, the only thing the Browns have done since then is add yet another cornerback in Ward.
Is it possible, then, that the Browns see the next great shut-down cornerback in Ward? If general manager John Dorsey‘s philosophy is to be believed, then yes. And if they do see such potential in Ward, then he absolutely must start on day one.
Rookie cornerbacks are not, at all, like rookie quarterbacks. While they are two of the hardest positions to learn at the professional level, the philosophy surrounding the two could not be more different.
In most situations, coaches and front offices want their rookie quarterback to sit. Such is the case with No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield, who the Browns have sat behind Tyrod Taylor and (likely) Drew Stanton on the depth chart for his rookie year.
On the other hand, rookie cornerbacks tend to play via the “trial by fire” method. Unless the defense surrounding said rookie is incredibly stacked, the rookie will almost always play. Such will, more than likely, be the case with Denzel Ward.
But before we set this in stone, let’s take a look at what we’ve got here. The Browns signed a myriad of cornerbacks in the off-season. T.J. Carrie, originally a seventh-round pick, will likely not start. Terrence Mitchell has an outside shot to start, and Damarious Randall will probably play safety, which only really leaves E.J. Gaines.
If the Browns play with three cornerbacks, it could look like E.J. Gaines, along with Briean Boddy-Calhoun in the slot. That leaves an open starting spot at the second cornerback position, which Ward could easily fill, playing alongside Gaines.
So is Denzel Ward, the Nordonia High School graduate, destined to be the Browns’ hometown hero? It’s hard to say, really, considering the bevy of cornerbacks on Cleveland’s roster. If Ward plays well in training camp and preseason however, he will almost definitely start week one.
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The ball is in Denzel Ward’s court, and he knows it. Ward could be the next great Browns cornerback, and will certainly start at some point in his rookie season. Even with such a bloated roster in the secondary, he could easily emerge as the best cornerback that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has had since coming to Cleveland.