12

Denzel Ward hopes to follow buddy Marshon Lattimore’s blueprint

No paternity tests needed, mind you. Lattimore is 22, Ward is 21. The two simply have a bond that goes back to The Ohio State University, where Ward, Lattimore and Gareon Conley formed a cornerback hydra that resulted in all being taken in the first round of the NFL draft — Lattimore by New Orleans and Conley by the Raiders a year ago, Ward fourth overall by the Browns in April.

That the Buckeyes had three first-round picks in the same backfield speaks to each player’s ability but also to the system the Buckeyes use defensively. Ohio State is one of the few programs in the country that ask their corners to play press-man coverage, a skill that is required in the NFL.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

“Coach Coombs told me when he recruited me, he wanted to coach first-round draft picks and win championships,” Ward said of secondary coach Kerry Coombs. “That sold me right there.”

“We were with each other every day,” Lattimore said. “Same position. Like me, Gareon, Denzel and Damon Arnette. And we were in battle together. So when you’re battling with somebody, you’re gonna get close to them no matter what. So just me being with him, and me looking at him like my little brother, it just became natural.”

The Browns made Ward a semi-surprising fourth overall pick in the hopes he can do for Cleveland what his friend and mentor did for the Saints. Lattimore’s impact on New Orleans after being taken 11th overall was significant.12

With Lattimore starting as a rookie, New Orleans improved in every pass-defense category, from 4,380 passing yards given up in 2016 to 3,597 in 2017, from 27 touchdown passes to 22, from nine interceptions to 20.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Lattimore was the fourth-ranked corner in the league and the 29th-best player. He allowed opposing quarterbacks a 45.3 passer rating when throwing his way, best among all rookies.

Lattimore wound up in the Pro Bowl and the winner of the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Last week, he talked about becoming “a legend.”

It may be oversimplifying to say one player made that much of a difference, but when it comes to a cover corner, the impact can be significant. Think Richard Sherman at his best with Seattle. Think the impact of Jalen Ramsey, who ranked third in the NFL at his postion and was a key reason Jacksonville made the AFC Championship Game. The cover corner not only takes away the opposing team’s best player, he frees defensive coordinators to provide extra help elsewhere.cheap new nike nfl jerseys

In a seven-game stretch early in the season with Lattimore playing and learning, the Saints gave up 149.2 yards passing per game. Lattimore missed the next two games, and the Saints gave up more than 300 yards passing in both games.