Rudy Ford was a Philadelphia Eagles unsung hero in 2020

Eagles' Rudy Ford dives into the end zone to save the ball from going for a touchback Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, at Lincoln Financial Field.News Eagles Vs Rams
Eagles' Rudy Ford dives into the end zone to save the ball from going for a touchback Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, at Lincoln Financial Field.News Eagles Vs Rams /

He might be the best Philadelphia Eagles player that you don’t know about. Rudy Ford was one of the lone positives in a season filled with negatives. Although he’s listed as a safety, he won’t line up on defense very often. Instead, he’s a special teams ace lining up at the gunner position on punts and kicks. In August 2019, the Eagles traded Bruce Hector to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for Ford. While that might not have been a blockbuster move for either team, Ford has been a nice addition to the team,

On his pro day, Rudy ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash. It shows. He doesn’t get easily bullied by opponents since he has good size for the position too (six-foot, 204 pounds). In 2019, Ford had a solid season making six tackles in ten games, forcing fair catches, and getting downfield quickly to down the ball.

This year was even better. He made more of a name for himself. In his first five games, he collected nine total tackles, eight of which were solo tackles. Even when he wasn’t making tackles, he was forcing returners to run into the direction of his teammates, forcing more fair catches, and continuing to down the ball.

How valuable was Rudy Ford to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020?

Ford has sound fundamentals at the gunner position. He can go out of both a receiver stance and out a crouched position. Both are used by gunners but in a crouched position, gunners can avoid their opponent getting hands on their chest and stopping their momentum. It is similar to throwing off the timing of a receiver’s route by getting hands on them early. Ford uses both to his advantage especially the crouched position by dipping his shoulder to avoid contact. He’s also shown that he can fight through contact by swiping away his opponent’s hands.

In addition, he demonstrates good tackling technique by tracking the inside hip of the ball carrier, wrapping them up with both arms, and then holding on and bringing them down. It’s one thing to have speed. There are plenty of guys who light up the forty-yard dash these days. It’s another thing to be able to control that speed and then make a clean tackle afterward. Even in the open field when Ford is one-on-one, he makes the tackle or at least slows up the ball carrier. Ford sets this all up with his stance pre-snap, his jab steps and head fakes to get free from the defender, and his ability to fight through contact.

At the end of the year, Rudy played a little bit more on defense. He ended the season with 15 total tackles (13 were of the solo variety) in just eight games. He played just 46 defensive snaps but was in on 139 special teams snaps, and the Birds couldn’t have asked for much more out of this guy on special teams.

This offseason, he’ll be a free agent. It was smart to let him play significant defensive snaps in the Week 17 finale. While he provides great value as a gunner, it’s also nice if he can provide value on defense as well. The Philadelphia Eagles will have to decide if they liked what they saw from him on defense and if they are willing to keep him around in his current role. Although Ford has exceeded expectations in his role, he has missed 14 games due to injury in his two seasons in Philly. It’s easy to pull a hamstring or strain a muscle as a gunner but it would be ideal if he was on the field a bit more.

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Either way, Ford is definitely worth bringing back. Chris Maragos hung around as a special-teams ace for years and made big plays in his role. If the Philadelphia Eagles employ the same gameplan with Ford and he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll become a fan favorite in no time, just like Maragos did.