Giants reunite Jihad Ward with ex-Ravens DC Wink Martindale

Jihad Ward hopes to earn Wink’s nod.

The Giants signed Ward as their first edge rusher, added during free agency, and thought reuniting the former second-round draft pick with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale could generate cost-effective production at a position with significant need.

“I wanted to go somewhere where they let me feel loose, and Wink is one of those coaches where he’s basically going to make me prolong my career by bringing out the best in myself,” Ward said Monday of the Giants -Headquarters. “Wink is one of the coaches that did a great job with me when I was a Raven so I’m here now and ready to win a few games.”

A total of four sacks in 21 games for the Ravens in 2019-20 earned the 27-year-old Ward a one-year, $2.5 million free agent contract with the Jaguars. He added two more sacks and 17 pressures on 457 defensive snaps in 17 games — his most since 636 as a rookie with the Raiders.

Ravens defensive end Jihad Ward (53) sacks Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, December 27, 2020, in Baltimore.
Ravens defensive end Jihad Ward (53) fires Giants quarterback Daniel Jones in 2020.

“I bring a lot to the team,” Ward said. “The most important thing I can bring to the table is just try to win games, dominate the edge and then dominate the D-line. I believe I can be one of the best up there and one of the best D-Linemen. So when you play the Giants, the D line is mentioned.”

The Giants’ main investments in their defensive line are two tackles — former first-round pick Dexter Lawrence and former Pro Bowler Leonard Williams — who account for $31.5 million toward the 2022 salary cap. Edge rusher has been a wasteland (excluding Markus Golden’s 10-sack season in 2019) since Jason Pierre-Paul traded and the Giants switched to a 3-4 base front in 2018.

Martindale inherited outside linebackers Azeez Ojulari and Quincy Roche after promising rookie seasons. But if Martindale wants to impose his style – his Ravens have led the league in blitz percentage in three of the last four seasons – then depth and fresh legs are important.

Then-Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale looks on from the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, December 26, 2021 in Cincinnati.
Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale watched from the sidelines with the Ravens last season.

“Basically, you just come in with this aggression,” Ward said of Martindale’s philosophy. “You don’t know when we’re coming. That’s his kind of style. We will come to you.”

Sounds easy. It is not. Even for Ward, who says he can field any position on the front lines.

“The only thing is, with the rest of the D line that’s here, we just have to understand their different types of fronts,” Ward said. “It’s quite difficult for us and we will change the scheme based on the staff. It’s going to be a lot [creating] confusion and diversity.”

Ward grew up an Eagles fan in Philadelphia, but his football development began at the now-defunct Global Institute of Technology on Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue. He took the bus, ferry, and subway from his apartment to pick up practice gear — all of which paid off when his junior college film caught the eye of an Illinois recruiter.

“It was part of being a grown man,” Ward said. “That’s how I describe it. It used to take me three hours every day to go to school, so now that I have some money it’s very different. Everything is harder when you don’t have money. So when I come back here, I just think of those times like, ‘Damn, I really managed to get out of here for two years.’ But I will love it here forever. I’m glad to be back.” Giants reunite Jihad Ward with ex-Ravens DC Wink Martindale


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