The NFL Lens: Ball Security

The NFL Lens: Ball Security


Ball security that can withstand a defensive gauntlet.

Ball security is a more complex subject than it appears. In theory, it’s so vital that it can change games and alter the course of careers if not practiced.

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David Wilson and Stevan Ridley can attest that a lack of ball security can put the kibosh on a prospect’s path to NFL stardom. But Adrian Peterson is at the tail end of a Hall of Fame career and there are still notable lapses with his technique.

While the video in this post highlights ideal ball security,  what matters most in the NFL is results. Carrying the ball like a rolled up newspaper that has been lit on fire will create anxiety for coaches, but if the back never fumbles and he’s productive with his NFL touches, he’ll play.

Even so, it’s an extreme scenario. College runners get away with this behavior more often and succeed because they have NFL athletic ability and 90-95 percent of their opponents don’t.

When it comes to these prospects, scouts have been to this circus enough times to know that the odds are against this opening act doesn’t end well without adopting better security measures. Tiki Barber’s story is the most notable illustration that ball security techniques are improvable.

It’s why when I examine how a player carries the football, I examine three factors. They are listed below in order of importance :

  • Using the correct based on the location of the pursuit.
  • Ball security technique.
  • Maintaining control of the ball when hit.

The first two factors go a long way toward preventing a lapse with the third but I’ve seen professionals excel at point number three despite exhibiting routine lapses with the first two. There are also players who perform the first two points well and still fumble.

But for the sake of highlighting ball security technique that’s close to the idea, check out Miami’s Damien Williams on this run through the Steeler’s defense on Sunday. Williams was one of the fastest running back prospects of the 2014 class but he’s also a physical player.

Note the location of ball tight to his chest as he stumbles through the line, regains his balance, spins through contact, and finishes the carry with defenders draped on him.

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The elbow remains tight to his side so there’s no easy, backdoor punch from pursuit to knock the ball out. It’s difficult for a lot of running backs to maintain this form while changing direction and fighting to keep their balance. Williams doesn’t have this issue.

Next time you watch college football, pay attention to how often a top prospect will let the ball swing away from his chest or side and even let it droop as low as his knee–especially when changing direction or fighting to keep his balance.

It’s correctable, but it takes practice. And making too much of it might cost you a shot at a great player.

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