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When Jacksonville signed former Philadelphia Eagles safety Rudy Ford to a two-year, $4.2 million contract this offseason, it was pretty obvious what role the team had in mind for the fifth-year player.
Ford has started just two games at safety throughout his career, one with both the Arizona Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s seen sporadic action on the defensive end, totaling only 132 snaps in four seasons. However, Ford has played a much bigger role on special teams.
He’s seen 806 snaps on special teams throughout his career, and he’s developed into one of the best punt gunners in the NFL. Gunners on special teams are tasked with being the first down the field in return coverage. It requires a lot of speed, something Ford, who ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro day, isn’t lacking.
In 2020, Ford accounted for two of the five fastest punt gunning plays of the season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, clocking in at 22.36 and 22.19 MPH on two tackles, behind only Troy Pride of the Carolina Panthers, who reached 22.5 MPH.
With Jacksonville’s added safety depth this offseason, Ford likely doesn’t have a path to the field on defense. But as one of the NFL’s premier special teams coverage players, he certainly has a path to make the roster and stay there for a while.