Alan Ball moved from cornerback to free safety last season, but he was not an impact player. Ball seemed tentative much of the season and he did not have the attribute that many great safeties possess – he wasn’t a ball hawk. Or in football lingo, he didn’t have “a nose for the ball.” Ball had only two interceptions the entire year.
The question is: Can a player be taught to be a ball hawk? Or is it simply an instinct that you have or don’t have. Apparently under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, we’re going to find out.
“The only way you can help a guy do that is to give him the latitude to go,” defensive backs coach Dave Campo said. “Tell him to go. One of the things I’ve been impressed with Rob is that on a blitz, he’ll say, “I don’t care what you do. Go. Go. Go. Blitz hard and fast. Go. I could give you the congruent angle, go over here and do this. Go.’ And that’s something that I think helps with the mentality of being able to do that.”
Can it make a difference with Ball? Campo believes it could, but also pointed out that, “You don’t teach Ed Reed to go steal balls. But if you’re teaching a technique and you’re saying if that guys does that, you do this. If that guy does this, you be Ed Reed. Go get the football. And that’s what I mean by freeing a guy up to say ‘go.’ I think it will help all of our guys.”
-- Jan Hubbard