The Green Bay Packers ended their five-game losing streak with a dramatic win over the Dallas Cowboys, and while rookie Christian Watson is getting all of the national attention, safety Rudy Ford had a breakout game of his own.
In the 31-28 overtime win, Ford finished with four solo tackles, two pass deflections, and a pair of interceptions that helped swing the momentum of the game. According to Pro Football Focus, Ford was easily Green Bay’s highest-graded defender, posting an 88.3 overall grade while playing 63 of the team’s 83 defensive snaps.
General manager Brian Gutekunst has hit some home runs with his pro personnel department over the last couple of years, finding bargain-bin players who have turned out to be stars. De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas became overnight stars for the Packers for pennies on the dollar in 2021, and after watching the film, Gutekunst might have done it again with Ford.
As a run defender, Ford triggers downhill quickly and shows good technique and play strength when tackling. On the first defensive snap of the game, the Packers were comfortable enough with Ford’s run defense to essentially play him as an inside linebacker, and he showed why defensive coordinator Joe Barry trusted him there as he attacked downhill and wrapped up Cowboys running back Tony Pollard for just a one-yard gain.
The Packers used Rudy Ford essentially as an ILB on the first defensive snap of the game.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 14, 2022
I really like his urgency attacking downhill, then wrapping up the RB. pic.twitter.com/cF7wLNxFsP
In a more traditional safety role, Ford is definitively an asset in run support as an alley defender. His aggressiveness and speed attacking downhill, along with being able to take good pursuit angles, makes him a reliable deep safety in run support. This is a role that starting safety Darnell Savage has struggled with this season, which could be a big reason why the Packers wanted to give Ford more playing time.
This is how you run fit the alley.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 14, 2022
Flies downhill, takes a great pursuit angle and makes a strong tackle.
What a play by Rudy Ford. pic.twitter.com/tw8sdgjdwk
It wasn’t worth cutting clips of some plays, but there are snaps where Ford shows excellent effort and aggressiveness even on the little things like attacking a receiver as he falls down instead of just getting hands on him to mark him down. As exciting of a player as he has been in that regard, however, there are times when his aggressiveness can get the better of him.
On a play at the goal line, Ford had an opportunity to tackle the Cowboys' wide receiver short of the goal line, but his aggressiveness got the better of him and caused him to miss the tackle. With Jaire Alexander helping on the outside, Ford could have attacked the receiver’s near hip, which would have allowed him and his teammate to corral the opponent and generate a big stop.
Love how aggressive Ford played on Sunday, but he still needs to know when to reel it in.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 14, 2022
Overcommits here and whiffs to allow the TD.
He has Jaire helping out outside, and they could two-man corral the WR if he pursues the near hip instead. pic.twitter.com/DaizRQFCFU
Instead, Ford over-pursued and went for the outside hip, allowing CeeDee Lamb to cut back inside for the touchdown.
In pass coverage, Ford was able to grab a couple of picks because of his aggressiveness. While they were risky plays, Ford felt confident on both interceptions by triggering downhill as soon as his assignments broke on their routes, allowing him to jump a pair of Dak Prescott passes for interceptions.
This has to have been a blown assignment by Dallas with two players running the same route.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 14, 2022
But Ford does a great job reading the in-breaking route and jumping underneath it for his first INT. pic.twitter.com/kDAHtriwyG
Very intrigued by these 3-safety personnel looks Joe Barry rolled out on Sunday.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 14, 2022
Awful throw by Dak, but a good job by Ford breaking downhill and jumping the pass as soon as the WR commits to his route. pic.twitter.com/8DmEQJ1kkw
Barry seems determined to find more ways to get Ford onto the field, including these three-safety personnel packages. This also seems to be helping Savage, who was playing more of a slot DB role on Sunday, which could help make him a more effective player.
It’s only one game, but based on what we saw against the Cowboys, Ford has a chance of being a very solid contributor to Green Bay’s defense for the rest of the year.