On the day after final cuts, the Jets acquired a couple of new players including edge defender Tim Ward. Today, we’ll be breaking him down in detail.
The 24-year old Ward is listed at 6’6” and 255 pounds and has only played in one NFL game since going undrafted in 2019. However, he registered five tackles and a sack in that game and then followed that up with a solid preseason this year.
Ward was late to pick up the game of football and was only a two-star recruit out of high school.
However, he did a solid job in four years at Old Dominion even though he was mostly coming off the bench. He had 2.5 sacks as a freshman and then five more in his sophomore season. While he only had seven more sacks in his last two season, he did make 19.5 tackles for loss over the two years.
Ward only started 10 games in his college career, including six in his final season, which ended prematurely due to injury. He still managed to post a career-best 42 tackles though.
Ward first found his way onto draft radars when scouts noticed his athleticism and length while scouting his teammate Oshane Ximines. It was clear he was probably too raw to spend a draft pick on but the Chiefs signed him as an undrafted free agent.
He did not practice at all in 2019 and spent the entire year on the non-football injury list while rehabbing his 2018 injury. He even won a Super Bowl ring despite not contributing directly.
In 2020, he was released in final cuts but signed to the practice squad and then added to the active roster late in the year. He was inactive until the final week of the season but then got to start the last game while the Chiefs rested most of their starters and contributed well with five tackles and a sack.
This year, he impressed at camp and had three sacks in the three preseason games, leaving many Chiefs fans frustrated when the team opted to waive him, although the coaches noted that he did all of the damage against reserves. The Jets claimed Ward to provide some young depth after Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry were ruled out for the year.
Now let’s take a look at what Ward brings to the table, divided into categories.
Ward has excellent size and length, boasting an impressive 82-inch wingspan and big hands.
He wasn’t healthy enough to perform a pro day workout but he displays good speed, explosiveness and lateral agility on film. NFL teams were reportedly impressed with his workout at the regional combine.
He was able to perform the bench press at his pro day, racked up a solid 25 reps. He also looks strong on film.
In college, Ward played mostly with his hand(s) in the dirt, but he stood up more often in his final season and made most of his best contributions with the Chiefs while standing up on the edge.
He’s played inside, off the line or dropped into coverage from time to time, albeit only a few snaps per game.
In the trenches, Ward gives a good effort and will keep working to try and get pressure when initially repelled.
He also displays good effort running down plays from behind or coming across the field. This play came right after he chased down a receiver following a pass completion.
Ward doesn’t have a lot of experience as a starter, so might be better suited to a rotational role. He did play 57 defensive snaps in his only NFL regular season game though.
Overall, Ward hasn’t had spectacular pressure percentage numbers, although he did develop over the course of his college career in this area.
He has an excellent get-off, which gives him a chance to gain an outside leverage advantage and he’s strong enough to resist being directed upfield.
He’s raw technically and also in terms of his approach, perhaps lacking a secondary counter or go-to pass rush move.
However, it is good to see him balance out the threat of his outside speed rush with this quick inside move.
Ward shows a promising ability to set the edge with his quickness to get upfield and his strength to anchor himself.
This can be used against him though because at times he will be so eager to get upfield that the back is able to run right past him, or his blocker can use his momentum against him to seal him off.
He also needs to be better at taking on blocks and holding up at the point of attack at times, although will work back into the play when initially blocked off the line.
Scouting reports from when he was drafted indicate that Ward has the potential to be even better against the run if he can start to exploit his length when taking on blocks and there are signs that he is starting to do this.
When Ward keeps his pads low he can penetrate with good leverage, as he does on this run stuff.
Ward stated after he was drafted that he’s working on his hand usage to try and develop more pass rushing moves, but he’s already shown the ability to use a rip move coming around the corner.
Ward didn’t make many special teams contributions in college although he did see action in a variety of roles during his time at ODU. While he was primarily tasked with rushing kicks, he also saw action as a blocker and in coverage, mostly in the early part of his career.
Ward closes well, has good range and can use his long arms to wrap up ball carriers outside of his frame but still missed a handful of tackles each year in college and was only modestly statistically productive with 125 tackles in four seasons.
He didn’t miss any tackles in his four games with the Chiefs, although there was one play where he overran the ball carrier.
Ward had just one forced fumble in his college career, but he was in on two tackles in preseason action with the Chiefs where the ball was lost, including this sack.
Ward was required to drop into coverage from time to time and while he has the athleticism to drop deep, it’s not really something he looks comfortable doing and he has been exploited for a few first down catches over the course of his career.
He was, however, able to contribute by batting down several passes at the line. He had eight passes defensed in college.
Ward’s vision and play recognition was an area he needed to work at when coming into the league but he does a decent job here of staying alert on the backside and reacting to the cutback.
Ward has obviously had a lot of hard work to do in terms of improving his technique and he’s spent a lot of time working on his weaknesses.
His on-field discipline hasn’t been too bad, with 10 penalties in his college career, including four in his final season. A few of these were for jumping offside.
Ward tore his ACL on the last play of a late season game in 2018, to basically end his college career. His rookie season at the NFL level was essentially a redshirt year.
Prior to this knee injury, he didn’t miss any games as he had played in 47 in a row for the Monarchs.
Ward should be comfortable in a 4-3 edge role and has some potential as a run stopper but could find himself employed as more of a situational rusher in the early going.
Robert Saleh has said the Jets will typically have four edge defenders active and that all four will get reps so he should get some opportunities.
In Kansas City, he was teammates with Jimmy Murray and Adrian Colbert, who are now on the Jets’ practice squad.
The Jets would have hoped to see more from Hamilcar Rashed or Jabari Zuniga when Lawson and Curry were ruled out for the year, but neither was that impressive in preseason and Ward is probably viewed as someone who has more immediate potential with the Jets needing rotational contributors.
In the longer term, they’ll hope to develop him to be a low-cost contributor next year and hopefully will find he still hasn’t reached his full potential.