Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville (NCAA): The sophomore cornerback and kick returner scored on a 69-yard punt return, had another punt return for 60 yards, and recovered a fumble in the Cardinals’ 63-20 rout of (then) 2nd-ranked Florida State on Saturday. QB Lamar Jackson received and will continue to receive almost all of the attention for (now) 3rd-ranked Louisville, but Alexander is one of the so-far unsung weapons who have this team looking like arguably the best in the country.
Casey Hayward, CB, Chargers (NFL): Hayward is my MVDB this week because my fantasy football opponent had Jaguars QB Blake Bortles and WR Allen Robinson, and Hayward picked Bortles off twice while helping limit Robinson to just three catches in San Diego’s 38-14 victory on Sunday. Hayward also had four tackles and two pass breakups. Continue reading
Tags: Casey Hayward, D.J. Swearinger, Dominick Sanders, Jaire Alexander, Juwuan Briscoe, Marcus Cooper, Mark Barron, NCAA, NFL, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Pulley, Tony Jefferson, Tyvon Branch
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
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
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.
NFL.com 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
Tags: Adam Jones, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Dre Kirkpatrick, Janoris Jenkins, Kyle Fuller, NFL, Patrick Peterson, Tracy Porter, Tyrann Mathieu
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
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
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
Ike Taylor should be well acquainted with the benefits and detriments of sharing a secondary with a teammate who is headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Taylor’s 12-year career as a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers began and ended with him playing alongside strong safety Troy Polamalu, an eight-time Pro Bowler who will go down in history as one of the game’s greatest defensive backs. Taylor (fourth round) and Polamalu (first round) were both chosen by Pittsburgh in the 2003 NFL Draft, and both retired following the 2014 season.
Thanks in no small part to Polamalu, Taylor played in three Super Bowls and won two of them. And Taylor probably had a bit of an easier time guarding some receivers because not many relished the idea of going across the middle with Polamalu patrolling that part of the field. Continue reading
It’s been a little more than one week since the NFL’s free agency period began in earnest, and already there has been a lot of movement among defensive backs.
Risk-taking, playmaking cornerback Janoris Jenkins went from St. Louis to Los Angeles (when the Rams relocated) to New York (signing with the Giants). All-Pro safety Eric Weddle almost went from San Diego to L.A. via relocation, but the Chargers stayed home and Weddle ended up finding a new home in Baltimore. Sean Smith went from Kansas City to Oakland and Tyvon Branch went from Kansas City to Arizona, significantly changing the look of the Chiefs’ secondary, one of the NFL’s best in 2015. And Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes stayed in-state, going from Miami to Tampa Bay.
But by the time all of the contracts have been signed and the 2016 NFL season gets underway, the most significant secondary move could be the one where Darrelle Revis, a future Hall of Famer, moves from cornerback to safety for the New York Jets. Continue reading