The term “passing league” gets thrown around (ha!) quite a bit and holds quite a bit of truth. More and more teams are passing more and love to do so by spreading out defenses and exploiting match ups. To combat this, it really is not enough to have one star corner when there are so many good receivers in this league and it is important to have good personnel all throughout a secondary to take away an offense’s options.
These five teams have top end talent, but they also posses good complimentary players in their secondary to solidify the unit.
Afew years ago, the Saints fielded one of the sorriest defense in NFL history. One year under Rob Ryan and they looked like a tremendously improved unit all over. During last offseason, they added underrated corner, Keenan Lewis. Lewis is a long, physical corner whose strength ad awareness make him a very solid corner. In last year’s draft, they added Texas safety, Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro is incredibly versatile and displayed that his rookie year as he impacted in the slot, in deep coverage and coming up against the run. He still has a lot to build on, so he is really promising moving forward.
This offseason, the Saints pulled money out of nowhere and signed former Bills safety, Jarius Byrd. Byrd is one of the best deep safeties in the league, using phenomenal instincts and ball skills to make plays over the top. He is a reliable tackler coming down hill and can cover the slot, but the Saints should use him strictly over the top and give Vaccaro more freedom to work underneath. The Saints also added veteran corner Champ Bailey. Despite getting way up in age and coming off an injured season, Bailey was still playing at a relatively high level when on the field. At the very least, he should be a valuable veteran presence with a young and talented secondary.
Through the draft, the Saints added another long corner in Nebraska’s Stanley Jean Baptiste. Baptiste, a former wide receiver, has great length, feet and athletic ability. He is a bit raw, but he has limitless potential and if he hits it, the Saints could have a much more dangerous unit come the end of next year.
4. New York Giants:
What?! I know, it is weird, but bare with me… Despite the horrid nature of most of the Giants team,Antrel Rolle and Prince Amukamara turned in quality seasons. Amukamara is looking like the physical corner that he was in college and really showed out in all aspects of the game for the Giants. Rolle started the season pretty badly, but had a tremendous rebound in the latter part of the season, making plays all over the place.
This offseason, the Giants signed Walter Thurmond and Dominique Rodgers Cromartie. Thurmond spent his time in Seattle establishing himself as one of the best slot corners in the game and Rodgers Cromartie is an athletic specimen who was a great cover corner for the Broncos last year and has true shut down potential. The only issue with Rodgers Cromartie, and this goes back to his time in Philly and Arizona, is that he will go as the team goes. His focus on the field seems to wan if the team is playing poorly and he is a liability. So, if the Giants can keep him in it, he is a very good corner.
A very underrated addition to the Giants secondary is their drafting of SDSU safety, Nat Berhe. Berhe is a very good athlete who can make plays all over the field. He is a smart player who is a willing tackler and is always around the ball. He is not the biggest player, but he does a good job o making people forget that on tape. I think he will be able to contribute early at strong safety and will prove to be a very good player for Big Blue.
3. Denver Broncos:
Pretty unfair that a team coming off an (embarrassing) appearance in the Super Bowl and a record-setting offensive season also has spoils of riches on their defense as well. At the back-end, the Broncos have a formidable safety duo of Raheem Moore and TJ Ward. Moore is a reliable free safety who may not be spectacular, but is very steady and that is much better than the average free safety in today’s league. Ward, a former Brown, is one of the top strong safeties in the league with phenomenal run stopping play and very impressive, intimidating coverage skills.
Few teams have as well put together a safety duo as the Broncos. Another big splash was made in free agency to acquire former Patriot and Buccaneer corner, Aquib Talib. Talib is a nasty, physical corner who makes his money at the line of scrimmage, disrupting receivers’ releases and ruining plays’ timing. He had severe decline after a midseason injury last year, but if he can rebound to early season form, the Broncos have themselves a very good player. On the other side, the Broncos drafted Ohio State corner, Bradley Roby. Roby is a speed freak corner with fantastic man coverage skills and is very physical. He has some instinctual issues that need cleaning up, but if the Broncos can simplify things for him, he should impact year one.
Despite coming off a knee injury, the Broncos re-signed Chris Harris Jr. Why? Because he is one of the best slot corners in the league. If he can regain his health, the Broncos have a nasty starting secondary for teams to have to go up against. Factor in former third round pick, Kayvon Webster, who turned in a promising rookie season, and the Broncos have formidable depth among their corners.
The Patriots may have made the splash of the offseason by handing the best corner in the league,Darrelle Revis a short contract in order to gear up for a Super Bowl run. Revis, who was being wasted by Greg Schiano’s system, is the best cover corner in the league and can legitimately take away an entire side of a field, allowing the defense to be more aggressive. Bill Belichick is an intelligent defensive coordinator who will maximize Revis and therefore, the rest of the unit. The other side will be manned by former Seahawk, Brandon Browner.
Browner is a gigantic corner with incredible length and strength. He has some issues with short area quickness and can beat by small guys who win at the line of scrimmage. However, the presence of Revis allows Devin McCourty, who was one of the best free safeties in the league last year, to shadow Browner’s side and allow Browner to play his aggressive style. Behind those two at corner, the Patriots have Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard, and Kyle Arrington as depth. That is a trio of talented and proven corners in the league who can play on the outside or the slot.
The only question mark is second year strong safety, Duron Harmon. However, Harmon showed a promise in his rookie year, so it is possible he could emerge and possibly push this unit over the top.
1. Seattle Seahawks:
The one, the only, the group that absolutely destroyed Peyton Manning, the Seattle Seahawks. It’s hard to talk about this group without starting with now infamous corner, Richard Sherman. Sherman is a specimen of a corner. He has size, strength, leaping ability and impressive body control. He is an incredibly aggressive and intelligent player on the field who is physical all the way through the play and can use his size to make plays on the ball. However, he would not be able to play the way he does if it were not were the freak at the back-end of that defense, Earl Thomas.
Thomas has range, burst and recognition ability like no other player in the league and watching him play over the top of a defense is a beautiful thing. He is a literal safety net that encourages and allows the corners to be incredibly aggressive and make plays. He elevates that entire defense with his ability and may be one of the most valuable players in the league. His running mate at safety is one of my favorite players in the league, Kam Chancellor. Rewind to the Super Bowl and watch Chancellor put on a clinic in strong safety play as he dominated the Broncos underneath passing game and punished against the run. At 6’3″ and 230 pounds, Chancellor is basically ultra rangy linebacker with the strength to come up against the run, but the recognition and burst to be a fantastic player in coverage.
There are no other players in the league like him and he is a new age prototype for the position. He, Sherman and Thomas form a trio of truly elite players at their positions and make that secondary terrifying. A bit newer to public eye is corner Byron Maxwell. Maxwell is in the same mold as other Seahawks corners; Big, long and strong. He flashed quite a bit in his first season of heavy playing time and actually reminded me a bit of what Richard Sherman was like in his rookie season. This unit has speed, size and ball skills, but nothing is scarier than the fact that they are all under 27 years old. This group is young and have plenty more time to dominate the league.