At 5'11" and 183lbs, with 31 1/4" arms, Denzel Ward is not a large cornerback. As he transitions to the NFL, will this matter?
Ward can certainly expect to face larger, more physical and athletic receivers on a regular basis in the NFL.
With all of this in mind, I decided to examine Ward's game against Indiana. Why Indiana? Because their WRs are big guys (#1 Simmie Cobbs JR 6'3" 220lbs, #10 Donavan Hale 6'4" 225lbs).
I will show video clips of every time Ward saw a pass thrown his way.
Ward keeps tight coverage on Hale and breaks up the pass. But notice how Ward never gets his head around to locate the ball. Ward slaps at the ball as Hale is making a one-handed catch. Hale almost keeps control, too. It's not until he hits the ground that the ball squirts out. With a slightly better throw, Hale gets two hands on the ball and makes the catch.
Ward easily mirrors Hale's route, reads Hale's break and turns to find the ball and knock it away. Poor route and poor throw. No problem for Ward.
Ward reads this pass easily and reaches around the receiver to break up the pass. Easy close coverage again. Difficult to see, but I think the pass could've been a little behind the receiver.
Again, Ward mirrors Hale's route nicely and is in the perfect position to get his hand in and break up the pass. Again, on a deep pass, Ward makes no attempt to turn and find the ball.
On a 2nd & goal Ward seems to hold Cobbs' right arm. Cobbs gets his left hand on the ball, but can't secure the catch. Ward never looks back for the ball - fortunate not to be flagged for DPI here.
On 3rd & goal, QB Richard Lagow goes straight back to the Cobbs-Ward match-up and this time Cobbs comes down with the TD catch. Ward, again, doesn't try to find the ball and is unable to out-muscle the larger man.
Hale tries a 'stop and go' move. Ward bites pretty hard and Hale has plenty of separation for an easy catch and a big gain.
At this point it seems Ward is being picked on a little. Another deep pass for Hale, Ward grabs at his left arm and draws the flag for PI.
Hale make easy separation on a comeback route. Hale brushes aside Ward's attempted tackle and picks up 5 extra yards and the 1st down.
As Lagow is flushed out of the pocket, Hale comes back to the ball and makes the catch. Ward keeps close coverage and nearly gets a hand in. Minimal gain on the play.
Looks like another comeback route for Hale. This time when he tries to turn upfield Ward lays a nice lick to send him sprawling out of bounds.
This is certainly a nice playcall by Indiana. Hale basically occupies two defenders to release the TE for an easy TD grab. Very difficult to defend against.
Looks like Ward is playing outside shade on Hale, with safety help inside. The safety totally misreads the QB and Hale is almost able to make the diving catch.
Bonehead throw by QB. Hale shoves Ward into the LB to break-up the INT.
This time Ward is covering Mack (6'2" 200lbs) and does a nice job of breaking up the pass.
Clearly in zone coverage here, Ward does a nice job of finding the receiver and making a good wrap-up tackle.
And finally, look what Ward can do when he gets his head around to locate the football!! A well taken INT with the receiver draped all over him.
Ward as a tackler reminds me some of Joe Haden - not physically imposing, but technically sound and aggressive. I've read that CBs at Ohio State are trained to not look around for the ball, but to break up the reception. A good NFL QB throwing to a larger WR will make life hard for Ward if he doesn't learn to locate the football.
If Ward can be a faster, injury-free version of Joe Haden, we have found our CB1 for years to come.
Any observations on these clips that I'm not seeing? How good do you think Ward can be in the NFL?