Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward had what felt like a down year in 2019.
Ward missed four games with a hamstring injury early in the season, and never appeared to regain the level of play that earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl after his rookie season in 2018.
But the eyes can sometimes lie - especially during the type of tumultuous season the Browns had last year - and opposing quarterbacks still found trouble when they targeted Ward in the passing game.
.@TheNickShook uses Next Gen Stats to highlight the top 10 coverage players of the 2019 season. Two members of the Patriots secondary lead his list. Where does Tyrann Mathieu rank?https://t.co/x9ME9TKJxG pic.twitter.com/vbfXLziCkj— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) May 29, 2020
Ward lands here in large part due to the numbers he produced while facing the highest target rate among this group. There’s also his coverage success rate of 61 percent and his ballhawk rate of 14.3 percent, which are impressive on their own, but also come with Ward’s tight window rate of 28.6 percent. He’s blanketing receivers and doing so consistently, with his 77 targets accounting for nearly a quarter of his coverage snaps. Teams seldom enjoyed success when they threw at Ward. His 2020 season should be even better, provided he can get through it healthier than his injury plagued 2019 campaign.
While it may have appeared that Ward had a down season in 2019 - especially compared to his rookie season - the numbers reveal a different story.
With a return to health and some more stability around him, Ward should have no problem keeping a firm grip on his place as one of the league’s best coverage players.