Charvarius Ward deserves better than the criticism levied by some Chiefs fans right now.
The last couple weeks haven’t exactly featured the best performances of Charvarius Ward’s career. While the defense shared the blame in the team’s 40-32 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders—again, that’s four-oh given up to the rivals—Ward in particular had some clear issues with communication or coverage or penalties (or all three) in both that game and the Chiefs win in Week 6 over the Buffalo Bills.
Because of these miscues, Ward has endured his fair share of criticism and then some on social media, as fans cry foul (and rightfully so) for the errors. Mental mistakes are frustrating to watch, and when a player clearly commits one (or more), it’s only natural that Chiefs Kingdom would respond accordingly.
Yet somehow the bigger picture has been forgotten in the middle of these short-term frustrations. It seems that some are in need of a reminder that Ward has been—and continues to be—a bright young defender blossoming with each passing season in the Chiefs secondary.
It wasn’t that long ago that Ward was an undrafted rookie who caught the attention of the Dallas Cowboys enough in the pre-draft process and via his tape at Middle Tennessee State to earn a look at a longer look as a free agent. From there, he held onto a roster spot until the eleventh hour when Dallas had to make a difficult choice.
It was then that Brett Veach pounced and took advantage of the Cowboys situation. At the time, Dallas looked like they had plenty of young corner talent and injuries brought about depth concerns along the offensive line. The Chiefs general manager offered up Parker Ehinger for Ward before the regular season began and the Cowboys bit.
In his first season, Ward lingered on the active roster for most of the season before making his first career starts late in the year in Bob Sutton’s defense. The results were predictable—a sloppy mix of promise and problems. But it was also clear that he was very gifted and that further experience would smooth the rougher edges.
In year two, the Chiefs leaned on Ward as a starter from the outset and he rewarded them with a full season of solid production. He had 10 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 74 total tackles, and a body of work that showed he could, indeed, keep up with opposing defenses of all kinds. After the season, Ward led the NFL in performance-based pay, given to players who have clearly outperformed their salary.
Given his relative inexperience, it was reasonable to assume the best was yet to come. Then came the frustrating hand fracture suffered in the Chiefs opening win over the Houston Texans. Not only was Ward lost for the rest of that game but he also missed the second game after having surgery. It was unknown how much time he would miss, but he soon began to practice with a cast on and he’s started three games since that time.
It’s fine to be frustrated about Ward’s errors early this season. In fact, you likely wouldn’t be alone. It’s likely very safe to assume that no one is more upset by any needless penalty or blown coverage than the cornerback himself. And maybe some frustration needs to be channeled toward coaches who are playing someone who might not be fully healthy. Ward is allowing a 69 percent completion rate in 2020—Warning: small sample size—which is 20 points higher than last season.
That said, the Chiefs have also pulled off big wins over the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and Buffalo Bills all while Ward played with a broken hand. In addition, the entire secondary as a whole looked sloppy and ill-prepared against the Raiders.
The bigger picture, the one that needs to come back into focus here, is that Ward is a talented 24-year-old cornerback who has gone from rookie free agent to Super Bowl starter while still on his rookie deal. He’s got just over a single season’s worth of starts under his belt and some of those are with a broken hand. All of the promise that you believed Ward held coming into 2020 is still present and accounted for.
Don’t let a couple injury-plagued games cloud your vision.