The Bears signed ball to a one-year deal worth $3 million. That’s starter money but is Ball starter worthy?
Let’s break down All-22 coaches film of Ball from last season to find out.
Ball (blue) is at the top of the screen in press coverage. WR Antonio Brown will run a 0 screen, which will isolate Ball out wide.
As Brown makes the catch, notice Ball’s body position: legs bent, hips sunk, arms wide to his sides. This is textbook tackling form.
Ball puts his face in the receiver’s stomach and wraps up both legs for no gain.
Analysis: Ball is a good tackler who understands and utilizes technique. As we see on this play, he’s adept at lowering his hips and keeping his focus on the ball carrier’s chest. He’ll miss the occasional tackle but overall Ball is dependable in one-on-one situations.
Ball (blue) had deep-third responsibility in Cover 3 zone. He has underneath help from the outside linebacker (red). The receiver will stem 15 yards from the line of scrimmage before his break.
Ball has now opened his hips and is ready to run if Brown continues his vertical route. Notice the three deep defenders (Cover 3) and intermediate help from the outside linebackers.
Brown makes his cut toward the sideline. Notice Ball rotating his hips toward the receiver.
Ball quickly changes direction and takes a sharp angle to meet the receiver at the sideline.
Ball gets to the receiver at the same time as the football. He’s able to knock Brown out of bounds and force the incompletion.
Analysis: On this snap, we get a good feel for Ball’s fluidity and burst when asked to change direction. He recognizes the pattern, shifts his hips in the opposite direction and breaks hard on the pass, demonstrating veteran intelligence and athleticism.
Ball (blue) is in press coverage against Brown (white).
Ball makes no attempt to disrupt the receiver’s route with his hands. Instead, he immediately bails out of his backpedal. Brown cuts outside and notice now Ball has his back to the receiver. This is about the worst thing a corner can do in man coverage.
Brown cuts back inside and again Ball has to completely turn his back to the receiver.
Brown cuts toward the sideline and Ball is in no position to make a play on a pass.
Analysis: A common theme for Ball is his refusal to use his hands at the line of scrimmage in press coverage. He consistently allows free releases, which often puts him in situations like these. In press-man, turning your back to the player you’re covering will almost always result in a completion. On this play, Ball does it twice.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.