Houston Texans: Who is the newest defensive back, Jimmie Ward
Jimmie Ward signed a two-year deal with the Houston Texans this off-season and rejoin the new head coach and former 49ers defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans. The contract was reported by Spotrac.com to be worth $13 million.
Ward was part of San Franciso's top-ranked defense a season ago and was originally drafted by the 49ers in the first round, 30th overall. He's been with the club ever since; however, early in his career, he struggled with injuries, finding his way on IR or the PUP list multiple times. During the first five seasons of his career, he played in 51 games, starting only 31 of those. Even last season, he played in 12 games and started only five of those.
The 49ers placed Ward on IR last August and did not reactivate him until October and wasn't until Week Seven that he began to log substantial snaps. It's safe to say, there is a relatively significant injury history with Ward.
Where does Jimmie Ward come from?
Jimmie Ward played for Northern Illinois of the Mid-Atlantic Conference. He took part in 13 games his freshman year; however, in a reserve role. He became a starter for the Huskies in his sophomore season, where he held that spot for three years, before entering the draft.
His best season at Northern Illinois was his senior year, when he recorded 94 total tackles, ten passes defended, and seven interceptions. He scored a 66 overall athleticism score, according to Next Gen Stats, which was fourth best among the safeties that attended the combine in 2014.
His scouting report, according to NFL.com, said he was a "backup and special-teams contributor". I think it's safe to say, that thought was wrong. Ward has carved out a solid career as a starter in this league and coming from a smaller school like Northern Illinois, is nothing short of impressive.
What does Jimmie Ward bring to the Houston Texans' defense?
Ward is a versatile defensive back that can play corner, nickel, or safety. Coach Ryans has already said he plans to play him at safety but he allows the Texans some flexibility throughout a game, which can keep offenses guessing.
"....Jimmie can play anywhere, but I'm going to play him at safety.""- Head Coach DeMeco Ryans
According to PFF, Ward was the sixth-best safety in the league a season ago, with an overall rating of 80.6. It's Ward's run defense that sets him apart from most other safeties though. PFF rated him with an overall run defense of 91.4, second in the NFL.