Documenting the Defense

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Denzel Ward has big individual goals for 2020, but wins come first

Denzel Ward wants to go back to the Pro Bowl. The third-year cornerback just has bigger goals than one, specific individual honor. 

Ward wants to win like he did as a star at Ohio State and, more recently, the way the team did during the second half of his rookie season, which ended with a trip to the Pro Bowl.

"That is definitely a goal of mine," Ward said before Thursday's practice. "I got a lot more than just the Pro Bowl. Just go in and try to win every game that I can.

"I believe every time I have the opportunity to go out there and show what I can do is a big opportunity to show that I am an elite corner in this league and do what I can do to help my team win."

Ward didn't necessarily take a step back in 2019. It just wasn't the season he envisioned for himself or the team.

The former No. 4 overall pick was similarly tough against opposing receivers, but a hamstring injury kept him off the field for four weeks during the first half of the season. He was healthy, available and productive for the second half of the year, but the defense as a whole struggled during that period, particularly after injuries and other issues hampered the defensive line and secondary.

Check out exclusive photos from Wednesday's practice in Berea

It was a step back for the entire team, Ward included. That's why his individual goals go hand in hand with what the Browns accomplish on Sundays throughout the fall.

Ward has done everything within his power to ensure he'll be a contributing factor toward an improved win total. That's included arriving for camp in great shape, embracing new techniques and opening himself up to his new coaches' critiques.

Ward's efforts have been noticed and appreciated.

"That growth mindset is something that I can really see in Denzel," pass game coordinator/defensive backs coach Jeff Howard said. "Every time he comes out on the field, he is really trying to get better, he is really trying to compete and he does not like to lose. That is really what you like to see in a corner."

Ward has been the rock in a Browns secondary that has dealt with a hearty dose of adversity throughout training camp. Rookie S Grant Delpit has been lost for the season while CBs Kevin Johnson, M.J. Stewart and Greedy Williams have all missed significant time because of injuries.

Ward, though, has been impressed by the play of those who have stepped up around him during those players' absences. It's given him even more confidence he's in the best position to achieve all of his goals — personal and team.

"It was a good test," Ward said. "You do not want guys to go out or be injured but it was a good test for guys to step in and play a little bit more than they would have and to see those reps that they may not have seen because guys would have been in that position before." 

*Asked who has caught his attention throughout training camp, Ward singled out undrafted free agent A.J. Green.

The former Oklahoma State standout was one of the league's most coveted free agents after the draft. He's received plenty of looks while the Browns have dealt with injuries all across the defense.

"I feel like he has been having a great camp and making plays when he has been in there," Ward said. "Making plays on ones or whoever he has been out there with."

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said he likes Green's size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) at the position.

"He is taking to the techniques that (defensive coordinator Joe Woods) and coach Howard and (assistant DBs) coach (Brandon) Lynch are teaching him," Stefanski said. "He has been very eager to learn. I have been pleased with what he has been doing."

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