MSU’s Tyson Smith Gets Pick-Six in Return From Stroke

The first couple of weeks of the college football season are typically full of blowout games resulting from lopsided matchups.

One of last Saturday’s most inspiring highlights happened in a game that wasn’t close between a big-name Big Ten team and one from the bottom half of the MAC.

Michigan State was beating Bowling Green 28-3 in the third quarter when Spartans junior cornerback Tyson Smith intercepted a pass by Falcons quarterback James Morgan and ran it back 38 yards for a touchdown. It was the knockout blow in State’s 35-10 victory. Continue reading

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4 sets of teammates among Pro Bowl defensive backs

Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith

Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith

After three seasons experimenting with a playground-style Pro Bowl where captains chose teams from a pool of the league’s top players, the NFL is returning to the traditional AFC-vs.-NFC format for its 2017 all-star game.

There are a couple of new wrinkles: The Pro Bowl will be held in Florida instead of Hawaii, and in the days leading up to the game there will be a “Pro Bowl Skills Showdown” that — hopefully — might be as cool as the old “NFL’s Fastest Man” and QB-challenge competitions I remember from when I was a kid.

Another Pro Bowl tradition is having a lot of players who are voted into the game being replaced by alternates. Continue reading

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USC’s Jackson cleans up during NCAA award season

Adoree Jackson

Adoree Jackson

While one part-time defensive back will sit among the finalists for college football’s Heisman Trophy on Saturday and find out where he finishes in the voting, one full-time defensive back who does spot duty in other areas claimed what is usually the biggest prize available to DBs on the NCAA level.

USC junior cornerback Adoree Jackson won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back, at Thursday’s College Football Awards show.

Jackson beat out fellow finalists Tre’Davious White of LSU and Jourdan Lewis of Michigan, both senior cornerbacks. Continue reading

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Army CB Brandon Jackson dies at 20


The day after he recorded three tackles and one pass breakup in Army’s 31-14 home victory over Rice, sophomore cornerback Brandon Jackson was killed in a single-car accident in Croton, N.Y. He was 20 years old.

Jackson was a second-year starter for the Black Knights. He helped Army defeat Temple and Rice in this season’s first two games to open their schedule 2-0 for the first time since 1996.

An all-conference safety and wide receiver at Holy Cross High School, a U.S. Military Academy Prep School in Flushing, N.Y., Jackson became a West Point cadet and started nine games as a true freshman at Army. Continue reading

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Do ‘shutdown cornerbacks’ still exist in the NFL?

Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman

The first time I remember hearing the term “shutdown cornerback,” it was used to describe none other than Deion Sanders.

And it wasn’t just about Deion shutting down Jerry Rice or Tim Brown or any of the NFL’s other top receivers of the 1990s. It was about Deion shutting down entire halves of the football field. About Deion shutting down a team’s entire passing attack. About Deion shutting down anything in his line of sight.

And since then — while I’ve heard the term “shutdown cornerback” used to describe dozens of other star cornerbacks in the NFL, college and high school — no corner has been as good at shutting things down as Deion Sanders. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: DBs who just missed the cut

Vontae Davis

Vontae Davis

As expected, the two-hour TV special unveiling the top 10 players in the NFL Network’s ranking of the top 100 for 2016 didn’t feature any defensive backs. And at the same time, it kind of did.

After All-Pro and Pro Bowl and all-everything-else breakout star cornerback Josh Norman made the list at No. 11 in the previous episode, it was safe to assume there would be no DBs in the top 10. But this episode did include a segment on the next 10 who just missed the top-100 cut, otherwise known as Nos. 101 through 110. And that group included three defensive backs: Continue reading

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Super Bowl champs boast NFL’s top CB tandem

Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr.

Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr.

Apparently the offseason is ranking season in the NFL.

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror, and training camps still a few weeks away, it seems every football media outlet is coming out with a variety of rankings and lists to pass the downtime. recently gave retired cornerback Ike Taylor, a 12-year vet who won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the task of putting together a list of the league’s top five cornerback tandems.

Even a casual football fan would not be surprised to find the Denver Broncos on top of Taylor’s list. Continue reading

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Peterson or Norman: Who is the NFL’s best cornerback?

Patrick Peterson

Patrick Peterson

In a sense, there is no such thing as an “accurate” ranking of the NFL’s best players — either overall or at any particular position.

Despite the best efforts of the people who create advanced statistics, there is no official formula. Ranking football players is rooted too deeply in the personal preferences and style choices of the person doing the ranking. And when you get into positions like offensive line and defensive back — where the numbers truly do not tell the whole story — you’re even less likely to come up with a universal order on which most people can agree. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Washington CB Josh Norman (#11)


I don’t know the order, and I can only take a decent guess at the names, but I do know for sure that next week’s two-hour TV special unveiling the top 10 of the NFL’s Network’s ranking of the league’s top 100 players for 2016 will not feature a defensive back.

Because if Josh Norman ended up No. 11 on the list — which was voted on by NFL players — that means no other cornerbacks or safeties are left.

During his breakout pro season, Norman was the league’s most celebrated and talked-out DB outside of Charles Woodson. But because Woodson, a future Hall of Famer, had announced his retirement and was in his farewell season with the Oakland Raiders, he wasn’t eligible for the 2016 edition of the top 100. Continue reading

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NFL’s Top 100: Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson (#18)

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Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu is really good. Tyrann Mathieu is aware that he’s really good. And Tyrann Mathieu is a third-round draft pick still working under his rookie contract, so Tyrann Mathieu is trying to get as much positive attention and money as possible.

So for Mathieu to say that he actually gets upset when his teammate, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, gets less attention than him, it shows how good Peterson must be. For further proof, Peterson’s peers around the league (including Mathieu) voted him No. 18 on the NFL Network’s ranking of the league’s top 100 players for 2016. Continue reading

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