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Jimmie Ward embracing mentor role with young Texans secondary

Houston Texans safety Jimmie Ward had been away from the South for so long that he had forgotten the one basic necessity that will help you navigate through any state, city, or small town that runs along the “Bible Belt,” and that is speaking to everyone that crosses your path.

“In California, it’s okay to be rude,” Ward said as he addressed the media on Thursday. “People walk past you, look, don’t say anything. It’s normal. You walk past somebody here (Houston), ‘Hey, how you are doing, sir?’ I was like, ‘Hey, my bad. I forgot.’ It’s just the culture. How y’all are excited, y’all are smiling. It’s something I’m not used to.”

Ward had spent the last nine years in the defensive backfield for the San Francisco 49ers and decided that it was time for a change when DeMeco Ryans, his former defensive coordinator for the last two seasons, was hired this offseason to coach the Texans. He signed a two-year, $13 million contract to compete for a starting spot opposite second-year safety Jalen Pitre.

“I’ve been breaking down the film now,” Ward said when asked about Pitre. “We’ve been talking about it, talking a lot about it. One thing that I’ve seen is that he (Pitre) has great ball skills. He can really move. He has some great feet. He told me a little about his background story and how he played nickel in college, and that’s similar to what I did.

“I’m excited because it can be interchangeable where I don’t always have to cover, he doesn’t always have to blitz, or he don’t always have to be in the post. We can switch it up, and that’s great for a defense because we can disguise better.”

Pitre isn’t the only defensive teammate that caught Ward’s attention from last season. Cornerback Derek Stingley stood out in his limited time on the field, playing in only nine games before being placed on the injured reserve list for the rest of the season due to a strained hamstring.

“He’s good,” said Ward when assessing the play of Stingley. “I seen how he moves around. He’s like 6-1, 6-0, but he moves like he’s 5-9, 5-8. Dude’s a stud. He’s going to be a stud. Then his confidence is already there. When you’re playing in the SEC, the level doesn’t just jump up too much because a lot of guys that he locked down at LSU are in the league. Didn’t they just break a record of SEC guys drafted this year? Okay, this guy Stingley covered the majority of the top wide receivers coming out or tight ends.

“That’s the reason his confidence is so high. It’s going to keep clicking for him. The game is going to slow down and slow down, and sooner or later, I’m not looking at his side. I’m going to go steal some on the other side. You aren’t going to catch the ball on Stingley.”

Ward is coming from a Ryans-led defense in San Francisco that was ranked No. 1 last season, barely allowing 300 yards per game (222.9 passing and 77.7 rushing) to its opponent.

Much of that was predicated on players being in the correct position and staying within the defensive scheme. Failing to do that will get you an up-close conversation with Ryans, who is not afraid to be a stern but fair coach.

“He’ll call you out,” Ward elaborated when asked about Ryans coaching style. “I feel like no matter the age, no matter how good a guy is, All-Pro/Pro Bowl, you’ve got to be able to take criticism. You’ve got to be able to be coachable. That’s one guy who played this game and played it for a long time, and he knows what you’ve been through, and that’s one guy that a lot of guys look up to.”

Ryans hired Cory Undlin and Bobby Slowik, two former co-workers during his time with the 49ers, as part of his staff. With those additions, it appears that the Texans have shed the unwanted moniker of “Patriot South,” a nickname given to them by the fans after the organization hired and signed so many former New England Patriots front office staff and players.

Even though Ward is being reunited with his former coaches, who were part of a franchise that went to multiple NFC Championship Games, he does not want his new team to be called anything else but the Texans.

“We’ve got to find our own culture,” Ward said. “We’ve got to create our own identity. We’re not San Fran. We’re Houston. So that’s who we’re going to be.”

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Story originally appeared on Texans Wire