One Cleveland Browns draft pick has started from day one in the defensive backfield. Just maybe not the one you expected. Have you met TJ Ward?
While everyone expects Joe Haden to find his way into the starting line-up, Ward is already there. Coming out of Oregon, there were plenty of questions about Ward. Was he too short (5-foot-10)? Was he too banged up (knees and ankle)? Did he have the top end speed (4.57 40 at the combine)?
Ward is ready to answer those questions.
"I'm up for the challenge," he said. "I'm not scared. I'm trying to learn everything, the different positions, the formations. With knowing everything comes more confidence."
Ward isn't the only one. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is anxious to see other teams in the NFL challenge Ward's perceived short-comings.
"Bring it on. He's done a great job," Ryan said. "He gets his hands on passes a lot in practice. Always competing. will knock your block off. He's going to be an exciting guy. There's not many rookies who come in as safeties and play in our system. Very complicated system. But this man can do it."
While NFL training camp is not the ultimate test for players, Ward is off to a fast start, turning not only his coaches into believers, but his teammates as well. Former Eagle Sheldon Brown said: "He's around the ball all the time, I've never seen a rookie make so many plays." Considering the Eagles have had their fair share of playmakers, that is high praise from the nine-year veteran.
Ward had this to say when asked how he approached big hits in the secondary: "You're going to have opportunities where you have to light somebody up. Those don't come too often. You've got to take advantage." Jack Tatum and Eric Turner would be proud to hear that.
This preseason keep an eye out for No. 43 in the defensive backfield. Rumor has it, he is going to be making a lot of plays for the Cleveland Browns.