As we count down from 50 days until the New Orleans Saints begin their regular season in Atlanta, on September 7th, we're getting to know a little bit about those players who have signed on to bring home another Lombardi trophy.
Today, we take a brief look at safety Marcus Ball and rookie tight end Je'Ron Hamm!
So, with no more ado:
36 DAYS UNTIL ATLANTA!!!
#36 S Marcus Ball (1st year in NFL)
Marcus Ball comes to New Orleans after playing two years as a linebacker in the Canadian Football League. During his two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts, Ball racked up 142 tackles, seven sacks, four interceptions with two returned for touchdowns and five special teams tackles... reportedly causing him to draw attention from more than one NFL team. The Argonauts released him earlier this year, on February 17, and the Saints picked him up a month and a half later.
Although he was listed as a linebacker in the CFL, he played safety at Memphis in 2009 and 2010, after starting out at Florida State then going to Pearl River Community College, in southern Mississippi. During his final year in college, in 2010, he appeared in 10 games, with nine starts at free safety, and posted 66 tackles (35 solo), two interceptions and four passes defensed.
Coming out of high school, Marcus Ball was the nation's third-ranked OLB, and during his first two college seasons, he appeared in 13 games for Florida State, posting 37 stops (20 solo), an interception, a sack, a fumble recovery and five passes defensed. Starting in 2008, he transferred to Pearl River Community College, then Memphis, and then played in the CFL for two years before getting released and picked up by the Saints. Although it's great that he continues to pursue his football dreams, he will have a difficult time breaking onto a defensively stacked final roster.
3 yr(s) / $1,536,000. Average: $512,000 per year through 2016.
#86 TE Je'Ron Hamm (Rookie)
As if the Saints didn't have enough of the TE-WR back and forth this year, they have decided to pick up a wide receiver and convert him into a tight end. New Orleans grabbed undrafted free agent Je'Ron Hamm out of the University of Louisiana at Monroe in May, with plans to make a project out of him. As a wide receiver, Hamm (6'4", 233 lbs) played in 46 career games for ULM, recording 111 receptions for 1,587 yards and 10 touchdowns over a four-year college career. His senior year, injury and instability at the quarterback position held him to 24 receptions for 304 yards (12.7 avg.) and two touchdowns.
Hamm was projected as a possible H-Back coming into the NFL. Given his 37-inch vertical jump, ability to extend and make the hard catches, and penchant for driving hard after the catch and pushing piles forward, the Saints decided he might fit in their scheme as a tight end. His potential role as a tight end in New Orleans may be further underscored by the fact that he has been somewhat criticized for not being able to get the kind of separation from good coverage which should be expected from an NFL wide receiver... especially an elite wide receiver.
Even on a pass-happy offense like Sean Payton's, though, the switch from wide receiver to tight end involves more than some may realize. "Knowing the zone gap steps and learning the techniques on the defensive side (have been the biggest challenges)," said Hamm. "Being a receiver you didn't really have to know what a nine technique is an "A" gap, "B" gap, "C" gap is." So the rookie has had plenty to learn at his new position.
Even though Je'Ron hasn't yet made a huge splash during training camp, he reportedly stood out at pre-training camp practices for his "athleticism and pass-catching skills." If Payton has already decided that he wants to keep the rookie around for a long-term project, Hamm may not get much of a chance to make a splash, either. Especially with New Orleans locking up Jimmy Graham, and with Benjamin Watson locked in as the second tight end, Hamm would need to impress significantly if he were going to bump Josh Hill or claim a possible fourth TE slot. So if the coaching staff already plans to keep him on the practice squad, giving them a year to convert this athletic receiver into someone who can help make the most of Sean Payton's two-tight-end sets, the team may not want his name on the lips of coaches elsewhere around the league.
3 yr(s) / $1,530,000. Average: $510,000 per year through 2016.