NEWS

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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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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Combine star Troy Apke leads DBs on Day 3 of NFL Draft

Troy Apke

Sorry if I’m not so sorry about the plight of the football player who slides a few picks lower than expected in the NFL Draft.

While there are some truly unfortunate bigger-picture areas of concern — e.g., would Heisman-winning QB Lamar Jackson have been chosen much higher than 32nd overall if he weren’t Black? — for the most part, a guy who had top-10 dreams but winds up at the end of the first round or going in the second round is still in very good shape for his pro career moving forward.

My sympathy lies more with the players who are still waiting for that life-changing phone call on Day 3 of the draft. The ones who weren’t picked in the first three rounds, who go into the final day of the draft having to confront the possibility that they may not get selected. Continue reading

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Day 2 of 2018 NFL Draft features run on DBs

Josh Jackson

The NFL Draft is an opportunity for some teams to change the direction of their franchise with one superstar selection. Other teams who don’t need a savior can stay among the upper echelon by simply adding depth to a position that is already a strength. Other teams that are a few pieces away from contending can use the draft to give an entire position group a makeover.

On Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers used their second-round pick on Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson; that came after the Packers used their first-round pick on Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander.

For a team that finished 31st in the league last season in Passer Rating allowed, 29th in passing touchdowns allowed and 23rd in passing yards allowed on its way to missing the playoffs, placing an emphasis on improving the secondary was a must. Continue reading

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Six DBs picked in 2018 NFL Draft first round

Denzel Ward

In the months leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, Ohio State’s Denzel Ward was widely considered the best cornerback in the pool. Cornerback also happens to be one of the most coveted positions in the NFL.

So why was it such a surprise — drawing a harmonized “Whoa!” from the NFL Network’s TV panel of experts — when Ward was the first defensive back chosen in Thursday’s first round?

Probably because in a vast majority of mock drafts, the first defensive back to come off the board was a safety: Either Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, or Florida State’s Derwin James. That Ward went No. 4 overall to the Cleveland Browns was also a surprise, as many prognosticators had the Browns taking NC State pass-rusher Bradley Chubb in that spot. Continue reading

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Defensive backs took over the 2018 NFL Combine

Derwin James

The final day of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine was the most busy in terms of action on the field, as a group of 70 defensive backs (43 cornerbacks, 27 safeties) performed drills and showcased their skills in preparation for this year’s NFL Draft.

There were more defensive backs at the Combine than players at any other position, and it was the largest group of DBs in the event’s history.

According to the majority of reviews and recaps I’ve read, and after watching most of the DBs do their thing on TV, the biggest fish in the big pond was Florida State safety Derwin James. Continue reading

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Brian Dawkins voted into Pro Football Hall of Fame

Brian Dawkins

Perhaps it should have been taken as a sign of things to come.

Before the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots met in Super Bowl LII this past Sunday, two men who are arguably the greatest defensive backs in each franchise’s respective histories were among the finalists up for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2018.

Ty Law, the five-time Pro Bowl cornerback who spent 10 seasons with the Patriots, didn’t make the cut. Brian Dawkins, the nine-time Pro Bowl safety who spent 13 seasons with the Eagles, was voted in on Saturday. The next day, the Eagles defeated the Patriots for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. Continue reading

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