Ever since Denzel Ward was drafted with the fourth overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Browns have attempted to surround the talented cornerback with young and equally promising players.
Last year, the new addition was Greedy Williams. Even though he was 21 and the youngest player on the field for most of his rookie season, Williams was a complementary cornerback with Ward and held his own against top receivers.
This year, the addition is Grant Delpit, the 2019 Jim Thorpe Award winner whom the Browns selected in the second round. Delpit's one of the brightest safety prospects in the league, and the Browns believe he could become a top-tier safety sooner rather than later.
"I feel like we could be special," Ward said Tuesday in a video call with local reporters. "We just have to play within the defense, play within ourselves, make plays and do what we are supposed to do, and everything else will take care of itself."
Check out photos of the team working out Tuesday
Ward, who has five interceptions in two seasons with the Browns, has plenty of reason to be excited about the secondary, and it goes beyond the new players added over the offseason.
The secondary could have a substantial improvement under new defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who has built an NFL resume working with Pro Bowl defensive backs. Charles Woodson, Richard Sherman, Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, among others, have all played under Woods in the last decade, and Woods has been a key coach in some of the best defenses in recent memory.
"Just definitely a change of the playbook so far and learning a new system with new coaches," Ward said when asked what has been different with Woods. "They are going to teach new things."
While Woods will oversee the whole defense, his tutelage could be even more significant for the young defensive backs. Williams and Delpit could join Ward as integral parts of the Browns defense, and they could all do it before they reach the age of 24.
Even though he hasn't been able to take a full-speed rep against an opposing offense yet, Ward has already seen how dynamic Delpit, in particular, could become in the Browns' defensive backfield. The Browns felt lucky to still have Delpit, who made eight interceptions in three seasons at LSU, on the board for their second-round pick, and Ward believes he can quickly become another young cornerstone of the defense.
"You guys already saw what he did on the field at LSU," Ward said. "He is definitely a fluid player, and he is definitely tough. You saw that last year at LSU. He had a hurt ankle that I feel a lot of people probably didn't even know about, but he played through it. He is going to bring that toughness here. He is just a fun guy to be around, too, in the locker room and everywhere else on the field."
For Ward, the defensive backs puzzle appears to be even more complete. The talent around him has only grown since he joined the Browns, and that could certainly help him find a new level to his game.
He's been a solid force in his first two years in Cleveland, but he knows there's much more in store. Now that the secondary is filled with promise, he believes a big jump is ahead.
"I feel that I had a decent season, not the season that I have in my mind when I set my goals and everything that I want to accomplish throughout the year, but I feel that I definitely produced throughout the season and did my job when I was out there on the field, made plays and helped my team," Ward said about 2019. "I feel that I still have a lot more that I could do, prove and still give to this team to help this team win."