“Honestly, I feel like I could be one of the best young corners in the game,” Ward said. “As long as I just keep believing in myself and have confidence in myself … the sky is the limit. … I’m going to earn my respect this year.
“I just believe in myself and my ability. I know what I can do on the field. I just need to show the world. I need to show the coaches … show the fans, just show everyone that I can be that lockdown corner that I think I can.”
Ward started all 16 regular-season games, plus three in the postseason last year — his second season in the league after going undrafted. He’s looming as a more important figure this season for the Chiefs, who will be without their other starting cornerback, Bashaud Breeland, because of a four-game suspension for violating of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
The Chiefs don’t have much proven depth at cornerback. They have Rashad Fenton, who played some as a nickel back as a rookie last year, and signed free agent Antonio Hamilton, though he has been mostly a special-teams player during his four NFL seasons. The Chiefs also drafted a pair of cornerbacks, including L’Jarius Sneed in the fourth round. It all means that a big season from Ward is almost a necessity.
“Now he’s got to put it all together,” defensive backs coach Sam Madison said. “He’s going into his third year, he’s gotten the reps.
“Little small techniques were the things that really hurt a lot of us in the plays that we gave up [last season]. Should’ve had some big plays out of all of these guys, but those are the things that they’ll have to correct and get better at going forward.”
If Ward is to become one of the top cornerbacks, his 2019 grade from Pro Football Focus suggests he has a long way to go. PFF had Ward rated as the 30th-best cornerback among those who played at least 500 snaps. He was credited with 10 passes defended and had two interceptions.
But Ward has already advanced beyond what the Chiefs had a right to expect when they acquired him as a rookie in a 2018 trade with the Cowboys shortly before the start of the season. The Cowboys had signed the undrafted cornerback out of Middle Tennessee State as a free agent.
Ward broke into the lineup late during his rookie season. He had the fourth quarter interception of a Tom Brady pass in the AFC Championship Game that season that would have sent the Chiefs to the Super Bowl. But the play was wiped out by Dee Ford’s offside penalty and the Chiefs went on to lose in overtime.
Entering 2020, Ward has a full season of starting experience for a Super Bowl-winning team.
“I think Charvarius Ward, what he’s been able to do over the last few years speaks for itself,” general manager Brett Veach said. “He’s shown he’s a starter in this league.”
The Chiefs allowed a 100-yard game to just one wide receiver during the 2019 regular season, which happened against Jacksonville’s DJ Chark in the opener. Ward deserves some of the credit for that but said what he’s really looking for this season is turnovers.
In addition to his two interceptions, he had a forced fumble last year.
“That’s one of my biggest things is getting the ball by forcing interceptions, stripping the ball, ripping the ball out,” Ward said. “Instead of batting the ball down this year, I’m going up with two hands and try to hop on the ball to get an interception. I just want to make turnovers to get the ball back to Pat [Mahomes], Tyreek [Hill], Sammy [Watkins], Travis [Kelce] and all of those guys to get more points. That’s one of my key areas of focus this year.”