T.J. Ward is the Denver Bronco’s Tasmanian devil
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — T.J. Ward never comes off the field anymore.
Why would he?
The versatile Denver versatile safety is in the midst of the best season of his seven-year NFL career.
His 42 tackles at the halfway point are eight shy of his total from all of last season, when he made the Pro Bowl for the second straight year.
The Broncos have a wealth of defensive stars to turn loose on opponents, from Von Miller’s antagonizing tackles to Chris Harris Jr. shutting down route runners.
What T.J. Ward does is a little bit of everything — except catch his breath.
He clobbers quarterbacks on the blitz.
He batters running backs in the box.
He torments tight ends over the middle.
He wallops wide receivers wherever they go.
“It’s hard to find those guys,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “He gives us a lot of flexibility.”
“If you look at my numbers,” Ward said, “I think I’m probably playing my best right now .”
Ward already has more pass breakups (7 vs. 6), forced fumbles (3 vs. 2) and fumble recoveries (1 vs. 0) than he did last year when he played a major role in the Broncos’ first Super Bowl championship since John Elway was leading the huddle instead of the front office.
“He’s been lights out,” linebacker Brandon Marshall said. “T.J., he’s killing it. He’s having an All-Pro season. I told him the other day, ‘I’m proud of you, man.’ He’s out here balling out. T.J.’s focused, he’s hungry, he’s driven, he’s making all kinds of plays, on the pass, on the run, he’s everywhere.
“Wherever he’s needed, man, he makes plays, at that position. T.J.’s a hell of a safety. And we all knew that when he came in here. He’s killing it. And I’m happy.”
The only thing Ward can’t seem to do is explain it all.
“No, they’re not asking me to do more, it’s just — I don’t know what it is,” Ward said. “Maybe more opps. I’m in more positions where I’m able to make more plays. Maybe guys are talking to me more. I don’t know what it is.
“Whatever it is, I’m doing it.”
That’s for sure.
According to the Broncos’ public relations staff, Ward is the first NFL defensive back since at least 1994 — and maybe ever — to have 35 tackles, three forced fumbles, a sack and an interception in a single month.
“That was pretty surprising,” Ward said of his eye-popping October. “Amazing to me. But I’ve just got to focus on what I can do better.”
Defensive backs coach Joe Woods said Ward’s versatility as a linebacker and safety allows the Broncos to mandate matchups rather than react to offensive formations.
“Some teams try to force teams to play certain ways. We try to make sure week to week that we’re going to dictate the matchups,” Woods said. “And when you have guys like T.J., it gives us that flexibility to create that matchup.”
That adjustability has allowed the Broncos to make up not only for the free agent loss of linebacker Danny Trevathan, but also for in-season adjustments when guys like rookie safety Justin Simmons has gotten hurt.
Most NFL teams pick six captains in training camp. Not the Broncos, who pick three.
Then, at the halfway point, the players vote to add three more, one each on offense, defense and special teams.
For the second straight season, Ward’s teammates chose him to wear the “C″ on his jersey, along with quarterback Trevor Siemian and linebacker Dekoda Watson.
“It feels good. It shows what my teammates think of me,” Ward said. “But regardless, I’ll carry myself in the same manner. If I got it at the beginning of the season, end of the season, I’m the same player, so that’s what you get from me. It just shows that my teammates appreciate me.”
Free safety Darian Stewart, who matched Ward’s interception with one of his own last week against Philip Rivers on a day the two were featured on the Broncos’ program , said Ward is “all over the field” and “relentless.”
“Like a Tasmanian devil,” said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “That’s what I call him. I call him ‘Taz.’ He’s acting crazy on the field. So, sometimes I have to calm him down a bit. But that’s the type of fire we need.”
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