Author Archives: Amaar Burton

NFL’s Top 100: Earl Thomas (#42)

Earl Thomas

With this offseason’s expected but early retirement of strong safety Kam Chancellor, and the surprising release of cornerback Richard Sherman, suddenly free safety Earl Thomas was the last man standing from the Seattle Seahawks’ original “Legion of Boom” secondary.

The LOB was the heart, soul and soundtrack of the 2010s’ Seahawks squads that made five straight playoff appearances, two Super Bowl appearances, and won Super Bowl XLVIII win a rout of defensive dominance against the Denver Broncos.

The original crew that made the nickname famous was Thomas, Chancellor, Sherman and cornerback Brandon Browner, who left Seattle in 2014 but returned two years later, only to be waived during training camp. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Harrison Smith (#46)

Harrison Smith

Harrison Smith always seems to be around the football, which is impressive considering that he often lines up farther away from it than anyone else on the field.

The Minnesota Vikings’ free safety notched 78 tackles (seven tackles-for-loss), 1.5 sacks, five interceptions and 12 pass breakups in the 2017 regular season, and recorded another 13 tackles and a sack during the team’s playoff run to the NFC Championship game.

Arguably the best player on arguably the NFL’s best defense, Smith was voted first team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl for the third time in his first six pro seasons. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Darius Slay (#49)

Darius Slay

Darius Slay’s breakout season happened a whole year after it was originally scheduled.

In 2016, the Detroit Lions signed Slay to a four-year, $48.1 million contract extension, making him one of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerbacks. He proceeded to have a good season, helping the Lions make the playoffs, but not great.

In 2017, Slay really showed why Detroit made the big investment in him. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Aqib Talib (#53)

Aqib Talib

It’s not like the Los Angeles Rams were a bad defensive team last season.

They ranked 12th out of 32 NFL teams in fewest points allowed (20.6 ppg) and 13th in fewest passing yards per game (217.2 ypg), helping them win the NFC West division title with an 11-5 record.

But after losing 26-13 in their playoff opener to the Atlanta Falcons, the Rams attacked the offseason by turning a solid defense into an amazing one — at least on paper. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Xavier Rhodes (#55)

Xavier Rhodes

The Minnesota Vikings have arguably the NFL’s best defense.

Last season, they led the league in fewest points allowed (15.8 ppg) and fewest yards allowed (275.9 ypg), and ranked second in fewest rushing yards allowed (83.6 ypg) and second in fewest passing yards allowed (192.4 ypg).

An argument within that argument that may be more even interesting is just who is the Vikings’ best defensive player.

On their way to a 13-3 record and an appearance in the NFC title game, Minnesota had five defenders named to the Pro Bowl and three were All-Pro. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Casey Hayward (#59)

Casey Hayward

After leading the NFL in interceptions in 2017 with seven picks, Casey Hayward entered the 2017 season vying for the unofficial title of the league’s best cornerback.

The Los Angeles Chargers star played well enough to stay in that competition, and moved up five spots to No. 59 on this year’s edition of the NFL Network’s Top 100 player ranking.

Hayward was named All-Pro second team along with Jacksonville cornerback A.J. Bouye, behind first-teamers Jalen Ramsey of the Jaguars and Xavier Rhodes of the Vikings. There are a few other corners that get more mainstream attention than Hayward, such as Washington’s Josh Norman, San Francisco’s Richard Sherman, and the L.A. Rams duo of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Micah Hyde (#62)

Micah Hyde

Usually, it’s better for a pro athlete to play for a big-market or high-profile team if they seek the awards and accolades that come with individual excellence. The difference between being underrated and properly rated (or even overrated) can often come down to location and the logo on one’s uniform.

Defensive back Micah Hyde has gone against the grain in that regard.

After playing his first four NFL seasons with the ever-popular and perennially successful Green Bay Packers, Hyde signed with the Buffalo Bills last season and had a breakout campaign. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Richard Sherman (#64)

Richard Sherman

The Bay Area is apparently the place to be for superstar athletes getting a fresh start in 2018 while recovering from major Achilles’ tendon injuries.

On the hardwood, the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors made the most surprising free-agency addition of this offseason by signing DeMarcus Cousins. The two-time All-NBA center suffered a torn left Achilles in January, missed the rest of the season, and is now aiming to prove he can still be an elite player in the league once he’s recovered.

On the gridiron, the San Francisco 49ers — far removed from their last Super Bowl championship but putting together the pieces to regain their past glory after three straight losing seasons — also pulled a free-agency surprise by signing Richard Sherman. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Kam Chancellor (#75)

Kam Chancellor

It appears Kam Chancellor‘s pro football career is over.

The two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl strong safety announced this summer that he had to walk away from the game after eight seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, citing an injured neck.

The timing of his announcement, along with the unveiling of the NFL Network’s Top 100 list for 2018, made Chancellor the first retired player to earn a spot on the annual list, as he was voted No. 75 by a panel of NFL players. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Marcus Peters (#79)

Marcus Peters

One of the most surprising moves of the NFL offseason was the Kansas City Chiefs trading cornerback Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams.

Peters has been one of the league’s best since the Chiefs drafted him three years ago. He was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 and led the league with eight interceptions; he was first team All-Pro in 2016; and he led the league in interception return yardage in 2017, gaining 137 yards on five picks. Since entering the league, Peters’ 60.7 passer rating allowed is second-best to Jacksonville Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye.

Going into the 2018 season, Peters is slotted No. 79 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 player ranking, which is voted on by NFL players Continue reading

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