Don't Overlook This Addition to the Ravens Defense

DE Jihad Ward

Much of the talk this week is about the Ravens' defensive improvement since Week 4 when Cleveland piled up 40 points and 530 offensive yards.

Cornerback Marcus Peters, linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, defensive tackle Domata Peko and the emergence of safety Chuck Clark have been big factors in the turnaround, but don't overlook the 6-foot-5, 287-pound defensive end.

Jihad Ward hasn't gotten the attention some of those other players have, but he's been making plays too, and will be a key piece to stopping the Cleveland Browns' run game this Sunday.

In nine games with the Ravens, Ward has seven tackles and one sack. He's made his biggest plays recently, recovering fumbles in back-to-back games.

"He's everything we thought he was going to be coming out as far as an edge setter, but his determination to win and do what's best for the team is really what stands out to me the most," Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said.

"He'll do whatever it takes to try to get a win, and all of his teammates really respect that. He studies the game, he stays after it and does extra to care of his body, to study the game, the next opponent and everything else. So, he's been a great addition for us."

A second-round pick (No. 44 overall) of the Oakland Raiders in 2016, Ward dealt with a knee injury coming out of college, then had foot surgery after his rookie season. He was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 but didn't make the roster out of training camp.

He bounced to the Indianapolis Colts, where he played in nine games the past two seasons before being released on Oct. 1. The Ravens picked him up six days later, and he's played in every game since.

"When you go through stuff like that, it's going to be tough," Ward said. "You're going to have ups and downs; it's whether you fall or not. What I did is I didn't quit. I'll never give up. I'm stronger now and I'm ready to roll."

Ward said that when he came to Baltimore, he knew he didn't want to be just a guy.

"I was ready to go from the rip. When I first came here, I didn't want to be here now and we'll see," Ward said. "No, I wanted to win games. I needed to win every game, so I'm doing whatever I can do to do that. I want to thank the teammates that I have around me that give me so much support, and the coaches, they believe in me. So I want to give them everything I have."

Ward will be essential this Sunday with the NFL's leading rusher, Nick Chubb, up next. Chubb ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns in the teams' meeting earlier this year.

"He's a great player, but he's not the only back out there," Ward said. "We've faced a lot of running backs."

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