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
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
Earl Thomas (12) with the Longhorns
The thing with unofficial titles is that anybody can lay claim to them.
And in a competitive environment such as the big-time sports industry, where everybody is looking to own something that sets them apart from the pack, that means any attractive title you can imagine could have multiple entities claiming it as their own.
In college football, one such example is the unofficial moniker “Defensive Back University,” better known as “DBU.”
Generally defined as the football program that historically produces the best defensive backs and/or sends the most DBs to the pro level, “DBU” has been ascribed to no shortage of major-conference programs: LSU, Florida, Texas, Washington State, Miami, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State have all worn the mythical “DBU” crown in recent years. Continue reading
Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman
In the NBA, it’s called a “Big Three.” In the NFL, they’re called “triplets.”
When three star athletes end up on the same team, visions of championships start dancing in the heads of fans and media (and of course owners and general managers) as expectations and ticket prices climb higher and higher.
An NBA Big Three typically consists of three standout offensive playmakers. But due to the two-way nature of the game, it can still include a player whose bread-and-butter is his defense. Think Dennis Rodman with the 1990s Chicago Bulls, or DeAndre Jordan with the current-day L.A. Clippers.
In the NFL, a set of triplets is — at least according to the media and fans who come up with these labels — almost always made up of three offensive players. Continue reading
The original “Legion of Doom” is back together, and during the time when one of them was gone, the three founding members who never left Seattle established themselves as arguably the best players in the NFL at their respective positions.
When veteran cornerback Brandon Browner returned to the Seahawks in April, he was reunited with cornerback Richard Sherman, strong safety Kam Chancellor and free safety Earl Thomas.
The foursome was instrumental in the Seahawks winning Super Bowl XLVIII and became the marquee unit on a defense that is considered one of the toughest in pro football history. The Steelers of the 1970s had the “Steel Curtain” defensive line. The early-2000s Ravens had a linebacker corps led by Ray Lewis. The Seahawks had the LOB secondary. Continue reading
Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
Demetrious Cox, S, Michigan State (NCAA): Following its 39-38 loss to Nebraska on Nov. 7, the Michigan State defense allowed an average of 12.5 points in its last four games to secure a spot in college football’s national championship playoff. In Saturday’ 16-13 victory over previously-undefeated Iowa in the Big Ten title game, Cox made his defensive contribution with seven tackles and an interception in the end zone off a deflected pass that he literally snatched off a teammate’s back.
Rontez Miles, FS, Jets (NFL): So much was made about star CB Darrelle Revis having to miss Sunday’s Jets-Giants game and whether the Jets’ secondary could handle Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. They didn’t, as OBJ caught six balls for 149 yards and a touchdown, but did good enough against QB Eli Manning and the Giants’ other receivers to help the Jets to a 23-20 overtime victory. Miles’ interception on a fourth down in the fourth quarter in the red zone kept the Giants from scoring a potentially backbreaking TD and set up a key field goal for the Jets. Continue reading
NFL Films and other football historians may gloss over it, but famous defensive units like Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” and the “Fearsome Foursome” of the Rams had just as much interchangeable membership as your average pop music boy band or R&B girl group.
Rosey Grier is arguably the second-most popular member of the “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line behind Deacon Jones, yet he was only part of the group for four seasons before Roger Brown replaced him. Ernie Holmes of “Steel Curtain” fame only played on on two of the Steelers’ four Super Bowl championships squads from that era. Continue reading
Going into the 2015 season, the competition for the title of NFL’s Best Cornerback seemed like a clear two-man race between Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis. But midway through the schedule, Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers has surprisingly played his way into the discussion.
The hierarchy at safety was, and has been, less obvious and more inclusive. Earl Thomas, Eric Weddle, Harrison Smith, Kam Chancellor, Tyrann Mathieu and Devin McCourty were all realistic contenders for NFL’s Best Safety going into the season. And now, Reshad Jones has been added to the list. Continue reading
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
Honestly, I don’t know anyone who plays in a fantasy football league that still uses Individual Defensive Players (IDPs) as a category, but apparently it is still a thing.
In this year’s Sporting News NFL fantasy preview magazine, the top 30 IDPs in each position group are ranked — and the man at the top of the list of defensive backs is not a man who would typically be considered the best DB in the league by most standards. Really, the SN‘s entire list of top-30 fantasy DBs looks nothing like anybody’s list of top-30 DBs in general. Continue reading