Myles Garrett knew Denzel Ward was special early.
Yes, Garrett saw what we all see: the speed, the vertical leap, the athletic fluidity of a former four-star Ohio State recruit. But what stood out to Garret was the way Gregg Williams coached Ward. More specifically, the way Williams watched Ward.
"I know that (Williams) only gets after the guys who he is really passionate about and can really have a chance of being great," Garrett said. "(Williams) gets after everybody, but it is different when he really has his eyes on you. He has always had his eye on Denzel (Ward). (Williams) has always wanted the best for (Ward)."
Williams' eyes clearly didn't lie to him. After missing two weeks with a concussion, Ward returned to practice Wednesday as Pro Bowler, the sixth Browns rookie to earn the honor and the first since Joe Thomas did so in 2007.
"It is definitely a blessing," Ward said. "I appreciate all of the voters and everyone that believed in me. Just glad that I can be a representative here for the Cleveland Browns."
Ward wasted no time imprinting his mark on the Browns' defense. He intercepted three passes in his first five games (two in his first), and defended six passes in the same span. Since then, his tangible production has slowed, not because of any rookie regression but because Ward commanded so much respect with his early performances.
"He's definitely earned his respect as a Pro-Bowl-caliber defensive back," vetean cornerback T.J. Carrie said. "Quarterbacks have started to limit the targets that he gets because of his big-play ability."
Just like Garrett, Carrie noticed Ward's talent early. Ward earned a starting role before training camp began on the recommendation of his veteran teammates, an honor Carrie attributed to the speed at which Ward learned Williams' system.
That acumen translated onto the field, where referees have only called two penalties against Ward all season. Carrie appreciates the talent and mental aptitude necessary for Ward to play so clean.
"His mental errors have been very, very short," Carrie said. "That's a big thing for a rookie to come in and learn a new system and execute it."
Ward's future is clearly promising, as evidenced by his teammates' words and his coach's eyes. The next step will be to build on his fast success. Carrie said that won't involve much change.
"The next step is to continue what he's been doing because it's been working," Carrie said. "Allow that one Pro Bowl to turn into five, six, seven, eight, nine Pro Bowls. I think that's the type of player that he is."