Cleveland Browns: Denzel Ward impressive during OTA’s
By Dan Justik
With many calling him a surprise pick at fourth overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, Denzel Ward is beginning to show why the Cleveland Browns were comfortable selecting him.
The Cleveland Browns were confident in themselves when they surprisingly drafted Denzel Ward fourth overall in April’s draft. Although he was the top-rated cornerback in the draft, draft experts did not seeing him landing in the top five selections of the draft.
But during the fifth day of Browns OTA’s, Ward is showing to everybody why he was selected so high in the draft. The biggest highlight of the day from Ward was a pass breakup he made against Browns receiver Josh Gordon in the corner of the endzone.
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One of the biggest concerns about Ward was his lack of size. Ward has a slight build at 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds, which raised concerns that he will not be able to defend the top wide receivers in the league that have good size.
But Gordon fits the criteria of the type of receiver described above. Ward continuing to practice against Gordon and winning in coverage like he did Wednesday should prepare him to face the other top receivers in the league.
Ward being able to practice against receivers like Gordon and Jarvis Landry should help his development tremendously. They are two of the best receivers in the NFL, but they are very different in how they play. Ward being exposed to both their play-styles will prepare him for just about anything he sees the rest of the season.
Fellow Browns cornerback T.J. Carrie had nothing but good things to say about the rookie, via Akron Beacon Journal’s Nate Ulrich.
"“Very savvy rookie, very savvy, very confident,” veteran cornerback TJ Carrie said of Ward after the fifth practice of organized team activities. “I think that when you come into this league, confidence is probably one of your best friends in the sense that you are playing with grown men. If you are not confident with who you are as yourself, you lose that ability to play instinctively and very fast. As you can see, he played exceptionally well today, had a number of pass breakups, a number of great plays out there.”"
What made Ward such a high draft pick besides his coverage abilities was his elite athleticism. If Ward can use that athleticism to break up jump balls like he did against Gordon, his transition to the NFL should go very well.
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If Ward does continue to play well, it would not be a surprise to see him starting Week 1 against the Steelers, and perhaps even shadowing Antonio Brown.