Pick Six: Players of the Week (Oct. 15, 2018)

Juan Thornhill

Six secondary standouts from football’s work that was:

Juan Thornill, SS, Virginia (NCAA) — It’s possible Virginia senior safety Juan Thornhill hits so hard that some people forget he’s a defensive back and not a linebacker.

Going into this season, Thornhill landed on watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski awards — both given to the national defensive player of the year — but he didn’t make the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top DB.

When the Cavaliers upset 16th-ranked Miami (Fla.) on Saturday, Thornhill’s biggest hit may have been on the referee that he ran over during a 62-yard interception return that got the Cavaliers inside the 10-yard line. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Oct. 8, 2018)

Marcus Maye

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Marcus Maye, FS, Jets (NFL) — Two members of the New York Jets made history during the team’s 34-16 dissection of the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

The headliner was running back Isaiah Crowell, who carried the ball 15 times for a franchise-record 219 yards, an average of 14.6 yards per touch. Crowell’s highlight reel included a 77-yard touchdown run.

Then there was Maye, who set an NFL record on the game’s final play. Maye intercepted a pass in the end zone by Denver quarterback Case Keenum and returned it 104 yards before he was caught at the 1-yard line. According to the Elias stat service, Maye’s 104-yard adventure was the longest non-touchdown interception return in league history. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Oct. 1, 2018)

Ugochukwu Amadi

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Ugochukwu Amadi, FS, Oregon (NCAA) — Last week, the Ducks defense bent too far and broke at the wrong time during a devastating loss to Pac-12 rival Stanford in which Oregon blew a 17-point lead in the second half and dropped a nail-biter in overtime.

This week, the Ducks defense held up when necessary in a 42-24 win over California. Leading the way was senior safety Amadi, who had seven tackles and two interceptions, including a 32-yard INT return for a touchdown that gave Oregon a comfortable cushion in the fourth quarter.

“The mindset was to redeem ourselves,” Amadi told reporters afterward. “We were eager to get back on the field. We wanted to give the world what they needed to see and that was playing Oregon football.” Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Sept. 24, 2018)

Earl Thomas

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Earl Thomas, FS, Seahawks (NFL) — Earl Thomas is single-handedly destroying the notion of “distractions” in professional sports.

In every season, in every one of America’s four major sports, there are stories full of speculation regarding teams underachieving and athletes suffering due to “distractions” off the field. Whether it’s legal problems (e.g. Addison Russell in MLB), disagreements over money (e.g. Le’Veon Bell), controversial issues (e.g. Colin Kaepernick), or a spat between teammates and/or coaches (e.g. Jimmy Butler in the NBA), the dreaded D-word is poison in pro locker rooms and just the threat of it is good enough for a team to hastily part ways with even its best players.

This past NFL offseason, Earl Thomas and the Seattle Seahawks engaged in a contract dispute that spilled into training camp, engulfed the preseason, and threatened to overshadow the team’s regular season. Continue reading

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In the Cards: Martin Mayhew

By sharing some of the football cards from my collection, my goal is to put a spotlight on defensive backs who may have become underrated or have been forgotten by history.

Martin Mayhew, CB, Washington (Pro Set 1991)

Martin Mayhew won a Super Bowl and intercepted more than 20 passes and scored a couple of touchdowns in his eight-year NFL career, but his post-playing career has been equally, if not more, impressive.

Coming out of Florida State in 1988, where he and Deion Sanders were teammates, Mayhew was a 10th-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills. As the 262nd overall pick, he wouldn’t have gotten drafted today in the seven-round draft era.

A wrist injury cost Mayhew the ’88 season, the Bills cut him, and he didn’t make his pro debut until ’89 with Washington. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Sept. 17, 2018)

Grant Delpit

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Grant Delpit, S, LSU (NCAA) — Of all the college football programs that give themselves the unofficial “DB U” moniker, LSU has as legitimate a claim as any.

The list of Bayou Bengals who have gone from Baton Rouge to the NFL is long and littered with defensive backs: Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, LaRon Landry and Eric Reid are some of the more recent Pro Bowl DBs from LSU. (Crazy how a recent Pro Bowl safety like Reid couldn’t get a team to sign him in free agency this offseason. I wonder what that’s about?)

Two of the league’s fastest rising defensive stars are Jets safety Jamal Adams and Bills cornerback TreDavious White, both LSU products. Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills, also from the LSU lineage, was a starter on last season’s Super Bowl championship team. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Sept. 10, 2018)

Denzel Ward

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Denzel Ward, CB, Browns (NFL) — Despite being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Ward is not even the most talked-about rookie on his team. That’s because the Browns also had the No. 1 pick in the draft, and they used it on Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield.

But in Cleveland’s season opener, Ward stepped into the spotlight while Mayfield never stepped onto the field. Ward started at cornerback and intercepted two passes to go with six tackles and three pass breakups in the Browns’ 21-21 tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ward also spent some time covering Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, who happens to be probably the best receiver in the league.

A tie usually isn’t something worth celebrating, but considering the Browns went 0-16 last season, a tie almost felt like a win on Sunday. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Jalen Ramsey (#17)

Jalen Ramsey

In the same year that he became widely recognized as the NFL’s best cornerback, Jalen Ramsey is apparently gunning for another title as the game’s preeminent trash-talker.

Last season, Ramsey’s second as a professional, he was voted first team All-Pro and a Pro Bowl starter after racking up 63 tackles, four interceptions and 17 pass breakups. Ramsey and A.J. Bouye formed the league’s top cornerback tandem (Bouye was also a Pro Bowl starter), helping the Jacksonville Jaguars win the AFC South and advance to the AFC Championship game.

Ramsey was then voted No. 17 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 player ranking for 2018, a list ordered according to the opinions of NFL players. Ramsey was the highest-ranking defensive back on the list, and only five other defenders — DE/LB Khalil Mack, DE Calais Campbell, LB Luke Kuechly, LB Von Miller and DT Aaron Donald — finished higher. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Patrick Peterson (#23)

Patrick Peterson

The parallels in the careers of superstar cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Aeneas Williams are adding up the longer Peterson remains with the Arizona Cardinals.

As Williams built the majority of his Hall of Fame career with the Cardinals, his individual accolades — six of his eight Pro Bowl nods, four of his five All-Pro nods — greatly outpaced his team’s success. The Cardinals made the playoffs just once in Williams’ 10 seasons with the squad, and won just one playoff game.

Peterson is entering his eighth season with the Cardinals. In that time he’s been a seven-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro. But the Cardinals have only made the playoffs twice in Peterson’s career, and have won just one playoff game. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: A.J. Bouye (#35)

A.J. Bouye

A.J. Bouye either played the contract-year game brilliantly, or his emergence as an elite NFL cornerback just happened to come at the perfect time.

After three years as a backup with the Houston Texans, Bouye shined in his first year as a starter in 2016, which was also his last year under contract. He parlayed that one impressive season into a lucrative free-agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars worth a reported $67.5 million over five years.

In his first season getting paid like a superstar, Bouye played like one. Continue reading

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