FEATURES

NFL’s Top 100: Landon Collins (#92)

Landon Collins

If you were wondering how much team success or failure can impact an individual athlete’s reputation, look no further than New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and strong safety Landon Collins.

During the 2016 NFL season, when the Giants went 11-5 and made it to the playoffs, Manning was being talked about as a future Hall of Famer, and he won the NFL’s Man of the Year award. Collins received first team All-Pro honors, and he was heavy in the conversation for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

In 2017, the Giants went 3-13 and finished with the second-worst record in the league. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Malcolm Jenkins (#96)

Malcolm Jenkins

Malcolm Jenkins is apparently too good to get blackballed.

The two-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro safety for the Philadelphia Eagles was right there on the front lines with Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid in 2016 when those two former San Francisco 49er teammates began kneeling during the pre-game playing of the national anthem, a move that sparked a movement of NFL players publicly protesting police brutality and racism in the United States.

Jenkins, who is widely recognized as the heart and soul of the Eagles, chose to protest by raising his fist during the anthem — similar to track and field icons John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics. His version of silent, yet powerful protest drew its share of headlines and support and criticism.

But while Kaepernick’s stand against injustice appears to have cost him his NFL career, and Reid has inexplicably (and blatantly) gone unsigned on this year’s free agent market — both players have filed grievances against the NFL, accusing team owners of collusion — Jenkins hasn’t gone anywhere. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (#100)

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Beginning in 2011, the NFL Network has surveyed NFL players to compile an annual ranking of the league’s top 100 players. The list is unveiled in a multi-part series during the offseason, with each episode profiling 10 players on the countdown to the No. 1 spot.

Because the ranking is decided by players and not the media or fans, those who often don’t get mainstream attention receive their just due: e.g., offensive linemen, linebackers who don’t get a lot of sacks, guys who standout on bad or small-market teams.

That’s good for defensive backs. Continue reading

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Super Bowl 52: A look at the secondaries

Malcolm Butler (21), Patrick Chung (23)

Flip the number 52 around and you’ll get 25. Which I found interesting for the purpose of this piece, because there are a lot of similarities between this year’s Super Bowl 52 pitting the New England Patriots against Philadelphia Eagles, and Super Bowl 25, when the Buffalo Bills faced the New York Giants in 1991.

Back then, the Bills were heavily favored to beat the Giants. Buffalo had the NFL’s most prolific offense, led by quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, and receivers Andre Reed and James Lofton. (All of them are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.) The defense was solid — led by Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith — but it was Buffalo’s offense that was its biggest strength.

The Giants made it to the Super Bowl thanks primarily to its defense, headlined by Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor (arguably the greatest defensive player in NFL history), Pro Bowl DE Leonard Marshall and LB Carl Banks, and cornerback Everson Walls, who is a finalist for the 2018 Hall of Fame class. Continue reading

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NFC defensive backs to watch in the NFL playoffs

Ronald Darby

The NFL playoff field is set — an eclectic mix of high-powered offenses (the Rams score a league-best 29.9 points per game) and stingy defenses (the Vikings allow a league-low 15.8 points per game), hotshot rookies (league rushing leader Kareem Hunt) and Hall of Fame locks who have been playing forever (Tom Brady), postseason regulars (Steelers) and teams that haven’t been to the playoff party in a long time (Bills).

Since they say defense wins championships, that means there are some defensive backs whose play will mean a lot in determining how the road to the Super Bowl is paved. Continue reading

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AFC defensive backs to watch in the NFL playoffs

Malcolm Butler

The NFL playoff field is set — an eclectic mix of high-powered offenses (the Rams score a league-best 29.9 points per game) and stingy defenses (the Vikings allow a league-low 15.8 points per game), hotshot rookies (league rushing leader Kareem Hunt) and Hall of Fame locks who have been playing forever (Tom Brady), postseason regulars (Steelers) and teams that haven’t been to the playoff party in a long time (Bills).

Since they say defense wins championships, that means there are some defensive backs whose play will mean a lot in determining how the road to the Super Bowl is paved. Continue reading

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Defensive backs to watch in the College Football Playoff

Clemson’s Ryan Carter

Defense hasn’t necessarily been the name of the game ahead of the 2018 College Football Playoff, even though three of the four teams involved field three of the nation’s best defenses.

Alabama allows the fewest points (11.5 per game) of any team in Division 1-A. Clemson ranks second, giving up 12.8 points per game, and Georgia is tied for third (with Wisconsin) at 13.2 points allowed. The fourth team in the playoff, Oklahoma, didn’t crack the nation’s top 50 defensively (25.0 points allowed), but the Sooners make up for it by leading the nation in offensive yards (583 per game) and ranking fourth in scoring with 44.9 points per game. Continue reading

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Top 5 NFL defensive backs on new teams in 2017

Morris Claiborne

Originally published by HERO Sports:

Similar to Colin Kaepernick at the quarterback position, the most well-known defensive back in the 2017 NFL free-agency class is still unsigned as the preseason gets underway.

That DB would be Darrelle Revis, the future Hall of Fame cornerback whose swift drop-off from shutdown to sit-down last season compelled the New York Jets to release him following another failed attempt to make the playoffs. Although Revis is only 32 years old, the Super Bowl champion and seven-time Pro Bowler has reportedly received little interest on the free-agent market. And if he does find a team, he might be asked to move to safety to mask whatever loss of speed and cover skills he’s had. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week

Devin McCourty

Devin McCourty

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

1. Devin McCourty, FS, Patriots (NFL) — Not one of New England’s defensive backs had a standout game statistically. Nobody made a very memorable big play or forced a takeaway. So, McCourty gets this spot under the Kawhi Leonard/Andre Iguodala NBA Finals MVP criteria: It’s not so much what he did, it’s more about what he prevented someone else from doing.

Just like Leonard and Iguodala were rewarded primarily for not allowing LeBron James to completely dominate the 2014 and 2015 Finals, respectively, McCourty’s biggest accomplishment in the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI is that he didn’t allow Atlanta WR Julio Jones to dominate the game. Continue reading

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Super Bowl 51: A look at the secondaries

L-R: Harmon, McCourty, Ryan

L-R: Harmon, McCourty, Ryan

The media coverage leading up to Super Bowl LI (a.k.a. Super Bowl 51 for the Roman-numerically-challenged) between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons has mirrored the media coverage leading up to last month’s college football national championship game between Alabama and Clemson.

Legacy has been a popular angle.

Going into the NCAA title game, the biggest question surrounding Alabama head coach Nick Saban was not if he could lead the Crimson Tide to the program’s 17th national title. It was more like, when Saban did it, would he then be considered the greatest college coach of all-time? Would he be considered better than ‘Bama legend Paul “Bear” Bryant? Continue reading

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