Alan Ball: Under the Radar

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The Houston Texans recently signed unrestricted free agent Alan Ball to the roster and initially most fans' first impressions were he must be Jason Allen’s (former Texans cornerback) replacement. Alan Ball is one of Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips' guys he drafted while he was in Dallas. Ball has an impressive combination of size and speed at 6’2 197 lbs with 4.48 speed. Most cornerbacks with those measurements usually become safeties when they come into the NFL. Very few cornerbacks have that type of size, speed, and hip fluidity combination that excel in the NFL. Ball, while in Dallas, was drafted to be a corner but due to his unique skill set and his ability to excel in Wade’s defense he placed him at cornerback. Ball, according to Wade, has great ability to play man and press coverage while showing the ability to play off man coverage as well. Paul Kuharsky of ESPN was at the Texans OTA’s and asked Wade Phillips about his cornerbacks and this is what he had to say about Alan Ball:

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“We have several guys that are pretty good at man coverage and that’s why we brought in Alan Ball, too. Because he can play, he can play either one. When I was in Dallas, my last half-year he was one of our best players. We said, “OK, we’ll put him at safety.” He was playing corner and he was playing real good but we couldn’t get him on the field because (Michael) Jenkins and (Terence) Newman had played real good and we almost led the league in scoring defense.”

Wade Phillips continued talking about his newest acquisition Alan Ball and how he wanted to get Ball on the field because he was too good to let sit on the sideline.

“So we put Ball at safety and then Jenkins and Newman didn’t play worth a d--- and I wish I would have kept Ball at corner for those guys that half a year, because they just played terrible for a while.”

After reading these comments by Coach Phillips, my first thought is that he could easily take on Allen’s role on the defense, but with his skill set he can either beat out Jackson or could be used in situational packages. From everything I hear about Ball’s ability to play man coverage and off man coverage, I believe that he could be used more than Jackson, especially against top-tier receivers that have size and speed. One thing I believe that makes Ball’s value go through the roof is the fact that with his size and speed he will be used in certain packages in the slot against the bigger, stronger tight ends of the NFL.

To make my point even greater, let’s look at our competition this year in the New England Patriots with their two tight ends. Image 5’9 180 lb. Brice McCain trying to line up in the slot against 6’6 265 lb. Rob Gronkowski, or 6’5 265 lb. Brandon Pettigrew of the Detroit Lions, not to mention 6’5 247 lb. Jemichael Finley of the Green Bay Packers. Now you are beginning to see the big picture and place a greater value on the pickup of Alan Ball. He will be key in certain alignments that the opposing offenses try to use against the Texans fierce pass rush. I loved the addition of Ball regardless of the fact that he’s considered a Cowboy cast off. He knows Wade’s system and had excelled in it even though he was used in a position that wasn’t natural for him.
In this new defense that Wade is building, it will be better than the one we had in 2011 even with the pieces we lost. I see us being a unit that will be able to cover and get immense pressure on opposing quarterbacks even when they try to use the short passing game with underneath routes and digs. I am extremely excited to see what new and exotic packages Wade comes up with this year as this will be the Texans best year yet, and I expect us to be a top defense for years to come.

Alan Ball