The Cleveland Browns may have found a gem in cornerback Denzel Ward, and the Browns’ secondary coach thinks he’s as talented as Charles Woodson.
It was viewed as a surprise when the Browns selected Ward with the fourth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft as Bradley Chubb was seen as the best defensive prospect in the class. However, Ward quickly proved that he was worth being a top-five selection.
Ward flashed his talent almost immediately, intercepting two Ben Roethlisberger passes in the season opener. It was a strong start to the season for the Cleveland native, and it was a season that resulted in a Pro Bowl appearance for the 22-year-old.
More from Dawg Pound Daily
- How the Browns could maximize Nick Chubb in 2023
- Can Deshaun Watson get to Patrick Mahomes level for Cleveland Browns?
- 3 Cleveland Browns who should see an expanded role in 2023 and 1 who should not
- Is Marcus Davenport on the Browns radar in 2023?
- 5 Free agents from Super Bowl LVII Cleveland Browns should target
In 13 games, Ward made 53 total tackles, five tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions, and 11 passes defensed. He also blocked a field goal attempt while playing special teams.
Ward used his lightning quick speed to blanket receivers and showed the ball skills to make a play on the ball whenever it was thrown his way. He also proved he was not afraid to come up and make a tackle, although his tackling technique could have caused him to miss games last year due to concussions.
Ward’s ability has excited new secondary coach Joe Whitt, who comes to Cleveland after 11 years in Green Bay. Whitt was the Packers’ cornerbacks coach for nine seasons and coached his fair share of talented players during that time.
One of the players he crossed paths with was Charles Woodson, who was one of the best defensive backs in NFL history. Whitt coached Woodson for five seasons and helped Woodson become the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.
In his short time with the Browns, Whitt has liked what he has seen from Ward. In fact, he believes Ward is ‘as gifted’ as Charles Woodson and believes that Ward has the potential to be special in the NFL – via Dan Labbe of cleveland.com.
"Whitt is in Cleveland after 11 years in Green Bay. He was part of the coaching staff that won Super Bowl XLV. One of the starting cornerbacks in that Super Bowl was Charles Woodson, the nine-time Pro Bowler and three-time All Pro who made the NFL Network’s Top 100 players list four times between 2011-15, landing as high as No. 16 in 2011. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 under Whitt.He worked with DeAngelo Hall, too, in 2007 when he was an assistant defensive backs coach with the Falcons.“This guy’s as gifted as any of those guys,” Whitt said. – Labbe, Cleveland.com"
The Browns drafted Ward because former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams believed Ward’s coverage abilities would help Cleveland’s pass rush get to the quarterback. The Browns felt Ward’s press coverage ability would help transform the entire defense.
One year later, Ward will be playing under a new defensive coordinator in Steve Wilks, who has made his living in the NFL as a defensive backs coach. Because of Wilks’ ability to get the best out of his defensive backs, there is hope Ward can take a major jump in his sophomore season.
Ward has already shown the potential of being one of the best young cornerbacks in the NFL. But Whitt believes that with some more coaching, Ward has the potential to be as good as the top cornerbacks in the NFL.