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Top Broncos 2014: T.J. Ward is #7

The Mile High Report Staff each ranked their Top 20 Broncos. From that, we'll be counting down the Top 7 with a few each day as we prepare for kickoff vs. the Colts! At #7 comes Broncos free agent safety T.J. Ward.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This seventh spot to the twelfth spot was separated by just a few points as our staff here disagreed greatly on which of these guys deserved the honor. My personal ranking for T.J. Ward was ninth, behind Louis Vasquez, Terrance Knighton and Julius Thomas. I am happy with him at #7 as much as I was at #9. It's that close.

Why is He a Top Bronco?

After getting pummeled in the Super Bowl, John Elway realized he needed to not only get tougher on defense, but mentally tougher as well. T.J. Ward brought home the bacon on both counts and the cap friendliness of his contract nearly guarantees he will remain with the Denver Broncos throughout the length of  his four year contract. Elway seems to have a keen eye on where he wants this football club this year and four years from now.

In just a single offseason, the defensive talent and depth has transformed into one of strength. It's hard not to be excited when you read through the defensive starters on this unit: DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe, Terrance Knighton, Sylvester Williams, Von Miller, Nate Irving, Danny Trevathan, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Rahim Moore and T.J. Ward. That is as loaded of a roster as I've seen on this franchise since the defenses of the 80s.

TJ Ward Career Stats

2010 16 0.0 80 28 2 39 0 1 0 0 0
2011 8 1.0 27 10 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
2012 16 1.0 50 18 1 37 0 3 0 0 0
2013 16 1.5 75 37 2 57 1 0 1 51 1
Career 54 3.5 232 93 5 133 1 5 1 51 1

Last season was sort of a break out year for T.J. Ward, but the signs of greatness were there from the beginning, but an injury-plagued sophomore season derailed his progression somewhat. Since then, he was solid in 2012 and a defensive stalwart in 2013. After an impressive 10 pass defenses in his rookie year, Ward has only logged 14 pass defenses since. That should change in 2014 as teams will be forces to air the ball out more against this high octane offense that the Cleveland Browns could only dream of.

I believe it was Elway's hope that pairing him with Rahim Moore will equate to the kind of defensive backfield the Broncos have not seen since John Lynch was cracking skulls back there.

Projecting T.J. Ward in 2014

So what will T.J. Ward do in 2014? I suspect he'll likely take a small step back from his outstanding 2013 campaign as he learns a new scheme and builds some chemistry with his teammates. I do believe he will be good enough to keep this defensive unit at the top echelon of defensive units in the league, but I do not expect him to peak as a Bronco until next season at the earliest. It's just the nature of the game.

From a statistical standpoint, I will have to say he will get more interceptions and pass defenses than last season, but fewer tackles as the front seven will take care of business negating the need for Ward to make tackles at the second level.

What do you think Broncos Country?