Denzel Ward flashed the kind of talent that made him the fourth-overall pick in the NFL Draft during Wednesday’s organized activity practice.
Ward, the rookie cornerback and former Ohio State star, seemed to have a nose for the ball all afternoon and broke up a pass in the end zone against a bigger veteran receiver in Josh Gordon (who, of course, has made plenty of defenders look silly throughout his career).
That all caught the eye of head coach Hue Jackson, who believes the Macedonia native will be a fixture in the defensive secondary for years to come.
“Every day, I see him getting a little bit better,” Jackson said after the session. “The speed of the game isn’t too big for him. The stage isn’t too big for him. He’s out there making plays. He just has to continue to make more.”
Ward, a twitchy, lightning-fast corner who had two interceptions and 15 pass breakups last season, is expected to compete for a starting job on a revamped defensive secondary. Thus far, he’s adjusted nicely to the pace of the professional game.
“(He’s a) very savvy rookie, very savvy. Very confident,” said cornerback T.J. Carrie, who signed with Cleveland in free agency. “I think that when you come into this league, confidence is probably one of your best friends in the sense that you’re playing with grown men. If you’re 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.”
“He's a hell of a player. You know he went to ‘that school,’” said second-year safety and former Michigan star Jabrill Peppers. “He’s tenacious, great feet, great hips, plays man-to-man, come up and lay the boom and he’s a ball hawk, as well. Whether that’s punching the ball out or grabbing interceptions, we can use guys like that, for sure. He fits this scheme extremely well … he has a lot of veterans around him, too. They can kind of show him and mold him into the player we all know he can be.”
Asked if Ward’s playmaking ability gives the Browns belief he’ll be a cornerstone type of player, Jackson didn’t flinch.
“I think so. Well, I don’t think so; I know so,” he said.
“He’s talented. He is getting better, and the more that he competes with Josh, (Jarvis) Landry, Corey (Coleman) and the rest of our crew, the better he’s going to be. Every day, I see him getting a little bit better.”