The Eagles could use a few upgrades on defense. While the team signed Malcolm Jenkins to start at safety and re-signed incumbent starter Nate Allen, the position could use more depth and competition. Allen, Jenkins and Wolff would make a solid three-man unit, but the Eagles want to be better at every position. With Allen on a one-year deal and Wolff still developing, the team could use some insurance. Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward could be a nice fit for the group.
A Mobile, AL native, Ward was a three-year starter in high school at defensive back. He committed to Northern Illinois in 2010 and played in all 14 games as a true freshman. He played mostly on special teams and blocked a school-record three punts. As a sophomore, he earned second team All Mid-American Conference honors after playing in 14 games (12 starts) at various positions in the defensive backfield. Ward collected 100 tackles (2.5 for loss), one sack, a forced fumble and an interception.
In 2012, the junior was named to the All Mid-American Conference first team. He led the team with 104 tackles (one for loss), 11 pass breakups, three interceptions and a forced fumbles in 13 starts. He was named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award after leading the Huskies with 95 tackles, one sack, 10 pass breakups and seven interceptions in 14 starts.
He was invited to the Reese's Senior Bowl.
Weight: 193 lbs
Arm Length: 31"
Hands: 9 3/8"
Bench Press: 9 reps
Pro Day (Ward did not perform in drills at the Combine)
40: 4.47 seconds
Ward is very good in coverage. He has a playmaker's instincts and can force a turnover. He has soft hands that allow him to take advantage of poorly thrown balls. He tackles well and will jump a route like the quarterback didn't even see him coming. He is vocal on the field and seems to be a leader in games. He will be aggressive against the run and will bring down offensive players. He was a standout on punt coverage in college. He has solid speed that allows him to play man coverage against slot receivers and tight ends.
Ward lacks strength and size, as he is not built like a safety. He has more of a cornerback physique. He has moments when he looks sloppy in coverage, partially due to slow diagnose. He will hold in coverage at times but at others will give too much cushion. He has a bit of stiffness in his hips.
The Eagles are looking for versatile players that can transform the defense into a solid unit. Ward has playmaking ability and would help create turnovers with likes of Brandon Boykin, Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Jenkins. The Eagles would likely need to spend a Day 2 pick on Ward, so they would need to be sold on him to make the move. His lack of size may cause concern for Philadelphia. Some see Ward as a first round pick but he is more likely to be taken in the second due to the heavy talent in the class.