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John DeShazier: Saints rookie Vonn Bell impresses with his skills as ball hawk

Posted May 18, 2016

Saints want to create more turnovers

It wasn’t so much Vonn Bell’s play as a safety at Ohio State that moved the needle for Aaron Glenn – at least, not totally.

Not that the New Orleans Saints’ first-year secondary coach didn’t like what he saw of Bell in the secondary, even as Bell’s numbers dipped in his final season, from six interceptions as a sophomore to two as a junior.

“Here’s the thing on tape that we saw from his college career: No. 1, he has good speed,” Glenn said. “He’s a good athlete. You look at him in his year before (2014), I know he only had maybe two picks his last year, but he had six the year before. He made great plays on the ball, so he has good ball skills.”

Bell very much was a play-maker (156 tackles, eight interceptions, 15 passes defensed and two fumble recoveries in his last two seasons), and that’s one of the expectations of him as a Saint. But Glenn was impressed by another phase of Bell’s game.

“To me, the thing that really stood out is his ability to play specials teams, and his ‘want to’ to play special teams,” Glenn said. “A lot of times that tells you a lot about a player. They’re a starter – how do they operate on special teams? He made a lot of good tackles on special teams. That says a lot about who he was, a special teams guy and a starter on defense.

“Most guys that play on special teams, you already know what type of mentality they have. And if they play it for the amount of games that they play it, that’s a staple of who they are. You have to have a certain mentality to play on special teams and he has that mentality, which is good.”

Bell has that mentality in spades, for a simple reason.

“Special teams win games,” he said. “You’ve got to bring your kicking game, too, and I’m very willing to play that. I’m just learning every day.”

He and other Saints rookies and tryout players received a crash course last weekend, during New Orleans’ rookie minicamp, learning as much as they could about the Saints offenses and defenses.

Bell, who helped quarterback Ohio State’s defense at safety, was lauded by the Saints for his cover skills, so much that New Orleans traded New England its third- and fourth-round picks, for New England’s second second-round pick, in order for the Saints to get into the bottom of the second round and draft Bell.

“We want ball hawks across the board (in the secondary),” Glenn said. “If you have a guy that has that mentality, I think it rubs off on other guys. Our secondary, we’re looking for guys that are ball hawks, that can make plays on the ball. Because that’s the name of the game – can you get the ball?”

Bell said he always has had the ability to produce takeaways.

“I guess God just blessed me with that ability, having a knack for the ball,” he said.

It’s a commodity the Saints have lacked the last two seasons, when they’ve produced 39 turnovers in 32 games.

But first things first: There’s a ton of schooling for Bell and every other first-year player. Last weekend only was the beginning.

“It’s been good, a learning experience,” he said. “Getting around some young guys that are eager to learn, just having fun out there flying around, just trying to make the best plays you can for the team and just running around, enjoying the moment.

“You’re a pro now, you’ve got to learn it and go out there and execute. Make your calls so everybody will be on the same page, and just have fun doing it.”

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