Marcus Ball snags (36) an interception from sophomore quarterback Ryan Griffin in summer organized team activities. Photo credit: Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune.
Much has been said on what the New Orleans Saints’ 2014 rookies and expensive free agent signings will bring to the table, but this series of articles will be focusing on the players making less buzz who are auditioning for a roster spot in July’s training camp. Here’s who I’ll be looking at, beginning with former Canadian Football League and Florida State Seminole Marcus Ball:
-July 14th – Marcus Ball
-July 21st – Ramon Humber
-July 28th – Jonathan Sullivan
The April 2nd signing of Marcus Ball may have been lost in the hysteria surrounding Jairus Byrd’s landmark and completely unexpected signing on March 11 and the April 7th denial of the Atlanta Falcons’ attempt at grabbing Rafael Bush. Ball was a standout player for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, recording 147 tackles (five on special teams), seven sacks, four interceptions, and three fumble recoveries in two years. He was a key piece in the 2012 Argonauts team that won the Grey Cup, the Canadian equivalent to the Super Bowl, and a veteran presence in 2013 when many of the team’s starters left in free agency. Listed at 6’1” and 209 pounds and described by some as “a fast Roman Harper who can cover”, Ball saw time at strong and free safety, outside and inside linebacker, and in a few rare packages defensive end for the Argonauts. The Saints signed him to a three year, $1,536,000 contract with no guaranteed money, locking Ball up through the 2016 season.
Ball is a highly physical, aggressive and versatile defender. He has great foot speed and looked like he was playing on a higher gear than his teammates and opponents on film, frequently crossing the field to run in stride with receivers and set the edge against ball carriers trying to bounce outside the line. If that sounds like a description of Kenny Vaccaro, it should. Ball is playing strong safety for the Saints and was brought in to back up the Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. While Ball is certainly not on Vaccaro’s level, he has a very similar skill set and body type to make him a good temporary replacement if Vaccaro misses time to injury.
By giving Ball a multi-year contract the Saints made it clear that they have high expectations for him to contribute on a regular basis. At the same time the lack of any guaranteed money suggests that they would have no problems with parting ways should he underwhelm or be outplayed by his competition in the form of rookies Vinnie Sunseri and Ty Zimmerman. The battle for the fourth and fifth safety roster spots should be exciting to watch in training camp. Ball has already drawn attention to himself for the right reasons by deflecting several passes and intercepting a red zone throw from Ryan Griffin in summer organized team activities. Let’s hope he can keep it up and become a factor in the Saints’ plans moving forward.
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