As the 2020 season approaches, hot take will be the buzz in the media. For Downtown Browns, we’ve got one: Denzel Ward will be a top-five cornerback this season. Before anyone answers with a rebuttal, let the numbers and other factors explain why The Warden will live up to this claim.
The Joe Woods Effect
Denzel Ward over the last two seasons has had a pretty solid run as a cornerback under two different defensive coordinators; but, he is getting an upgrade with Joe Woods coming on in that role. Joe Woods has been in the NFL since 2004 at the age of 34 and his role before coming a defensive coordinator was being a defensive backs coach.
Woods from 2004-2016 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, and the Oakland Raiders, this guy has taught that position for over 12 years. As a defensive back, there’s no other guy that they would want as their defensive coordinator. Woods just took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl as a DC after going 13-3 last year. Kevin Stefanski took a guy who had one of the best defenses in the league and brought him to Cleveland. What’s even better is that Woods worked with Stefanski in Minnesota.
The Browns hit the jackpot with having two guys who know each other well, proved that they can win, and have them both on the shores of Lake Erie. Woods and his 4-3 defensive scheme will help benefit the defenses that have seen a top-10 characteristic since he was back in Minnesota, Denver & San Francisco.
What does this mean for Ward? It means that having a guy with the repertoire Woods brings will give him a better shot to raise his already-high level of play. Ward went to the Pro-Bowl his rookie year and has over five interceptions in his first two years while missing games. Joe Woods will make Ward a better cornerback than he already is which is saying something.
Denzel Ward in 2020
As stated above, Denzel Ward has had five interceptions in his first two seasons while missing seven in that time span. If Ward stays healthy all year and locks in on Woods defensive scheme, there’s a chance Ward could double his interception total this year.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ward last season had 41 solo tackles and two interceptions, tying for 57th (tackles) and 23rd (interceptions) amongst all other cornerbacks, respectively. All of that after missing four games last year due to injury and having a bizarre 2019 under Kitchens. He even got a player grade of 69.9 by PFF on top of that.
Since being drafted in 2018, Ward’s been characterized as a lockdown corner and a guy with a huge ceiling. There is no denying that with the right scheme, coaching, and staying healthy, there’s no way that Ward cannot reach a high level this year in the league.
In its entirety, Cleveland’s defense received an upgrade, meaning opposing teams offenses have to take in account of who’s on the field for the Browns defensively. If offenses worry about where Myles Garrett or Larry Ogunjobi or Mack Wilson are at, they will panic and forget the defensive backs who can pick off throws at will especially Denzel Ward.
There is a case to be made that Denzel Ward hasn’t had the mega numbers in interceptions, or tackles to say that he will be a top-five cornerback in the league; although, there’s no denying that with the right setup he cannot be stopped and will make that jump.
Woods has a proven track record with his defenses, and most players thrive in it, especially defensive backs. Ward has the chance to have a monster season with Woods as his defensive coordinator, and there’s a chance Ward will get five interceptions or more as long as he plays all 16 games this year. Ward with all of these things going for him gives him a high chance to be a top-five cornerback in the league and all signs point to that happening in 2020.
The Warden is going to lockup the league this year and throw away the key.
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- Why Denzel Ward will be a Top Five cornerback in 2020 - June 29, 2020
- Why the Browns Need to Sign Chubb and Garrett Sooner than Later - June 16, 2020