ProFootballFocus has recently released their top 101 players of 2012. While the list is not exactly littered with members of the Cleveland Browns, one of the two to be given a mention is strong safety TJ Ward ((Joe Thomas, “gold standard among pass protecting left tackles,” comes in at 34)). Slotted three spots ahead of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, Ward gets love for being one of the more underrated players in the game.
Playing in Cleveland doesn’t always lend itself to having your performances rewarded with nationwide praise. So while you don’t often hear the name of Ward mentioned among the better safeties in the league, don’t think that’s a reflection on what he did in 2012. A real force in the box, Ward is more than just adequate in coverage, allowing just 12 receptions into his coverage all year.
Best Performance: Week 12 versus Pittsburgh, +3.7
Key Stat: Missed just one tackle for every 17.5 he attempted in 2012. That was the second-best number of all safeties.
Over the last two seasons, perhaps due to injuries coupled with poor team play, Ward has drawn some criticism for his difference-making in the passing game. While the number listed above does not indicate how many times the ball was thrown Ward’s way, it is refreshing to see that he only allowed 12 balls to be caught by his man over the course of the season. The missed tackles number is just a bonus.