The Redskins are turning to technology in order to improve Matt Jones’ ball security.
After he lost four fumbles in just 163 touches last year as a rookie, it became obvious that the issue needed special attention.
“Fundamentally, we drill him,” Jay Gruden said last week. “We’ve got a special ball for him, we’ve got all kinds of things that help him out, mainly focus on the ball not just when he’s in contact or in the line of scrimmage, but outside of contact where he had a lot of trouble last year.”
The “special ball” has sensors in it that will detect if the runner is putting sufficient pressure on key point of the ball as he carries it. There is one at each point of the ball. If the runner is handling the ball properly in a crowd there should be pressure on one end from his hand holding it and on the other end with that point tucked into the crook of the elbow. If the ball is fully secured it also should be pressure along the sides from the forearm and from the rib cage.
If there is pressure on all of the key points, the ball is silent. But if there grip loosens an warning signal goes off and the coach can stop the play to examine the grip and see where correction needs to be made.
It’s a useful tool but we won’t really know what results it will bring until the put the pads on in July. As Gruden pointed out, you can’t tell much while they are in shorts and helmets. “If he’s putting the ball down now, we have problems,” Gruden said with a smile.
But they are doing what they can do at this point. They are going to want him to handle the ball a lot more this year and a proportional increase in fumbles would put a crimp in those plans.
Gruden seems confident that he can get it done. "He's working hard at it, he'll get it corrected,” he said. We will see.