FEATURES

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. 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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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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