T.J. Ward, safety out of Oregon, was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 38th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
As I mentioned in my last article, I was skeptical of the pick because USC safety Taylor Mays was still on the board, and I remember what an impact player he was in his games against Ohio State the past two seasons.
I was also skeptical because I did not even remember Ward from the Rose Bowl this past New Year's Day against Ohio State.
I still had the game on my DVR and decided to go back and watch it and let you know some of Ward's highlights.
- Ward's stat line for the game: 10 total tackles, six solo, four ast, 0 INT, 0 FF.
- During the starting lineups Ward was listed as a "rover"...though he often lined up deep as a free safety. He also lined up as an OLB and covered the slot receiver (typically Dane Sanzenbacher).
- First play of the game, Ward lowered his shoulder and delivered quite a shot on DeVier Posey on a pass across the middle, causing him to drop the ball for an incompletion.
- Two plays later on a 3rd-and-long, Ward fell flat on his face after being juked by Terrelle Pryor, who picked up a long gain on the play. It would have been a very tough open-field tackle on one of the best running QBs in the game, but I still would have like to see a better effort. See the play here.
- In the red zone Ward came a blitz and forced Pryor to throw quick and a little off-target for an incompletion.
- On OSU's first TD by Brandon Saine, Ward allowed himself to get blocked by Sanzenbacher and was not in very good position to make a tackle and did not even touch Saine on the play.
- On 1st-and-10 with OSU in the I, Ward was on the slot receiver. Play was run up the middle, and Dan Herron could have gone all the way if not for a terrific diving tackle across the middle by Ward. A really nice play! He read the play and made a quick play on the ball up the middle from the slot. The play picked up nine yards, but Ward probably saved a TD.
- On a play that did not count due to an offsides penalty, Ward stepped up and made a solid assisted tackle at the line on a run.
- On a deep pass that was overthrown, Ward had Sanzenbacher covered tightly.
- Inside the red zone, Pryor tried to run free, but Ward forced him to the middle of field and then made a good wrap-up tackle when Pryor hesitated.
- On the very next play, a spread option, Ward cut off the pitch man and did not get sucked into going for Pryor, forcing him to keep the ball. The play only went for a couple yards and forced Ohio State into a field goal. Ward was quick to react to the play and did not allow Saine to get outside of him.
- On a run outside Ward was able fight off a block and still make the tackle on Herron, taking out his legs.
- Ward, played back deep with under 30 seconds left, stepped up and tackled Sanzenbacher on a completion in the open field.
- Ward spent most plays covering a receiver and didn't get beat at all from what I saw. Oregon also had longer possessions this quarter, limiting the amount of time OSU had the ball.
- On an outside run by Saine, Ward got ridden on a block by FB Zach Boren about nine yards downfield before he was able to get fight it off and aid in the tackle. Boren is a very good FB though, and absorbing that block did seem to be Ward's responsibility so that Boren could not get down field.
- On a run down the sideline by Pryor, Ward lowered his shoulder and LAID OUT the OSU QB. Pryor did his fair share of trucking and stiff-arming Ducks in this game, but Ward got in one heck of a shot on this one flying in from deep in the defensive backfield. This play appears second in this video.
- On the very next play (on that same video), Ward applied some pressure on Pryor, leading to an interception. Not a lot of pressure, but he was in there. Probably more a bad throw than anything else.
- Flying in from deep safety, Ward stuffed a run by Saine up the middle. Went in head first and lost his helmet on the play...heck of a stuff.
- On the opening drive of the quarter I did not see Ward on the field at all. Not sure what that was all about. He must have gotten hurt on the previous punt, but I did not see anything. The drive went for a TD, covering 81 yards on 13 plays over 6:01. It was a back-breaking drive for Oregon, and they definitely missed Ward.
- Ward was also not on the field as Ohio State ran out the final five minutes of the game. It is safe to say that Oregon's defense missed Ward in the fourth quarter, as OSU moved the ball down the field at will, mostly on the ground.
Ward is really a good football player. He is incredibly versatile and can play all over the field. He lined up as a LB, CB, FS, and SS. He came on several blitzes too.
After the first quarter it seemed like the Buckeyes went away from Ward on every play.
I did not see Ward get beat when playing man coverage at all. He covered ground very well when he was back at FS. And he can HIT!
The injury concerns cannot be ignored. He missed several games this past season and then was not on the field in the fourth quarter when they really needed him.
I am very excited to see how Rob Ryan will use Ward. I have to wonder, though, what this means for Abe Elam since they are both similar players.
Time will tell, but I am very excited about T.J. Ward at this point.