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.
Mark Carrier, FS, Chicago Bears (Pro Set 1990)
If your name isn’t Dick Butkus or Brian Urlacher, and if you didn’t play on the 1985 championship team, it’s tough to carve out a legacy in Chicago and be remembered as one of the great defenders in the history of the Bears franchise.
Urlacher had to bring the athleticism of a college safety to the iconic Bears’ middle linebacker position, stay there for 13 years, win NFL Defensive Player of the Year and make the Pro Bowl eight times just to be considered — at best — the third-best middle ‘backer to have suited up for Chicago; well behind Butkus and Mike Singletary. Continue reading
Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib
Two story lines have dominated the buildup to Super Bowl 50: Peyton Manning‘s unforgiving oldness and Cam Newton‘s unforgivable Blackness.
It’s no surprise, since quarterbacks are almost always the stars of the pre-Super Bowl show. But in most years there are at least some other intriguing angles for the media and for the public to latch onto: a reclusive running back’s maddening silence, a legendary linebacker’s impending retirement, a curmudgeonly coach’s mysterious methods.
This year, however, it seems to be all about the QBs. Which of course means that the difference-maker who will decide the outcome of Sunday’s game will probably be a player who received little to no attention during these two hype-filled weeks. And that man will suddenly become the subject of a thousand “Who is this guy?” pieces about the “unknown” who was completely available for get-to-know-you interviews while everyone was busy chasing Cam and Peyton. Continue reading
Tags: Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby, Charles Tillman, Chris Harris Jr., Cortland Finnegan, Darian Stewart, Josh Bush, Josh Norman, Kayvon Webster, Kurt Coleman, Robert McClain, Roman Harper, Shiloh Keo, Super Bowl 50, T.J. Ward, Tre Boston
If all you’re working with is a TV, a late-night recap show and some basic stats, you may encounter the same methodical flaws in grading a football team’s defensive backfield as you would in grading a baseball team’s outfield.
For the most part, we notice DBs and outfielders when they make a really good play (an interception, a diving catch, a TD-saving tackle, a rocket-like throw) and when they make a really bad play (getting burned for a TD, making an error, committing pass interference, misplaying a ball in the field). Without looking at all the angles and some more advanced stats, it’s easy to lose appreciation for the underrated yet crucial act of being in the right place at the right time. When done right, it makes an effective defense look kind of boring. Which makes a defensive coordinator sleep well at night. Continue reading
Tags: Aqib Talib, Charles Tillman, Chris Harris, Earl Thomas, Janoris Jenkins, Josh Norman, NFL, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Rodney McLeod, Tyrann Mathieu
Thursday night’s primetime national-TV flogging of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons may have marked the exact moment when the “Tampa 2” defense, once the league’s most popular and puzzling scheme, became played out.
To be fair, the Bucs’ defense was just part of the team’s problem in the 56-14 loss. The special teams allowed Atlanta’s Devin Hester to return a punt for a touchdown, and Tampa Bay QB Josh McCown threw a pick-six to Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael. But the Bucs’ D was undeniably lit up by ground and by air. Continue reading
Tags: Bob Sanders, Charles Tillman, Derrick Brooks, Devin Hester, Herm Edwards, John Lynch, Kemal Ishmael, Lovie Smith, Monte Kiffin, NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tony Dungy, Warren Sapp
Quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Brandon Marshall were cast as the heroes in Chicago’s wild 28-20 comeback win over San Francisco in Week 2, as they hooked up for two of their three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
But the Bears wouldn’t have been in position to steal that game from the 49ers if not for rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller, whose two interceptions in the fourth set up a pair of Chicago’s touchdowns. Continue reading