MOBILE, Ala.—Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward interviewed with most, if not every, NFL team during a blur of a week here at the Senior Bowl. But his meeting with the Redskins was memorable, he said, because of its thoroughness and the number of team personnel in the room.
“I talked to a lot of them,” Ward said of the Redskins.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Washington will target him in May’s draft. It does, however, show that GM Bruce Allen and his staff are interested in Ward, a versatile safety whose athleticism and ball skills have helped him stand out from the crowd on the practice field in recent days.
Indeed, Ward (5 foot 11, 192 pounds) received the Alabama Power Co. Practice Award as this week’s most outstanding performer at defensive back.
“My best [attribute] is that I can cover,” said Ward, a native of Mobile. “I’ll show them my tackling skills on Saturday in the game. Basically, I just want to show that I’m a versatile player.”
The Redskins, meantime, need to upgrade the backend after allowing 60 passing touchdowns the past two seasons. Veterans Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty are set to become free agents, while rookies Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas remain question marks. Rambo struggled with inconsistency and Thomas landed on injured reserve with a foot injury in training camp. (Rambo and Thomas played in the Senior Bowl last year.)
It could mean the Redskins will target a veteran safety in free agency. It could also mean they’ll be on the lookout for one in the draft, where the team holds picks in rounds 2-7. NFLdraftscout.com projects Ward as a third round selection.
As a senior, Ward led the Huskies with 95 tackles, 14 passes defended and seven interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Asked where his ball skills come from, he smiled and said, “It’s a mindset, man.”
Ward can play free or strong safety, though he was used more as a strong safety at Northern Illinois.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I like doing it all. I’m more of a get-in-the-box because I like to tackle. That’s a strong safety. But I can sit back and hunt and make big hits, too.”
Ward also said his first experience working in a professional environment and with NFL coaches has been a positive one.
“I lot of them like me,” he said of the Falcons’ staff. “But they’ve been on me. I had a couple of interceptions [this week] and dropped them. I just have to finish plays.”