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stlrz d
05-28-2009, 02:25 PM
http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/vi ... p?t=553552 (http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=553552)


The salty veterans still lead this group, but there are some promising young players on the rise. Several have made the list while several others just missed. With the next generation emerging, this list could look a lot different a year from now. RealScouts, Sporting News' team of former NFL scouts, rank their top 20 safeties for '09:

1. Ed Reed, Ravens. Reed was the only unanimous selection for the 2008 All-Pro team and rightly so. He led the NFL with nine interceptions and returned two for touchdowns, and he tacked on another TD in the playoffs. The system won't change in Baltimore this year, and Reed is on his way to a Hall of Fame career if he can stay healthy.

2. Troy Polamalu, Steelers. Polamalu was healthy for all 16 games and the postseason for the first time since 2005 and turned in a career-high seven interceptions in 2008. He's a high-energy player who can do it all, from blitzing to tackling to playing in coverage. He can attack from anywhere on the field.

3. Adrian Wilson, Cardinals. Wilson is not quite as dominant as he was earlier in his career, but he can still excel in most aspects of the game. Wilson is at his best playing close to the line, but he also makes plays on the ball in coverage. He has great size and can deliver big hits with the best of them.

4. Bob Sanders, Colts. Sanders played in just six games in 2008, and there is a chance he might not be healthy for the start of 2009. He is a game-changing player who has great range and is a punishing tackler, but he has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career.

5. Chris Hope, Titans. Returning from a spinal injury in 2007, Hope earned Pro Bowl honors last season. He's not a flashy player, but he is extremely productive and consistently plays at a high level. He's willing in run support and shows good range and route recognition in coverage. He has missed just five games over the past six seasons.

6. Nick Collins, Packers. Collins is a four-year starter who burst onto the scene in 2008 with seven interceptions, including three returned for scores. He has excellent range as a center field-type safety and has the speed to cover a lot of ground and make plays with the ball in his hands. A Pro Bowler last season, he should excel in Green Bay's new zone schemes.

7. Brian Dawkins, Broncos. Though he still can play at a high level, Dawkins, 35, is closer to the end of his career than he would like to admit. He's a strong tackler who is excellent near the line. But blitzing and coverage aren't his strengths, and we're curious to see how he does in a non-Jim Johnson system.

8. Michael Griffin, Titans. His seven interceptions were tied for second in the NFL last season, and he earned a Pro Bowl spot as Ed Reed's replacement. He's emerging as one of the best young safeties in the league, with a combination of size, speed and athleticism that makes him excellent in deep coverage.

9. Donte Whitner, Bills. Pending legal issues aside, Whitner is an instinctive playmaker who can play in traffic or in space. He is a rising young player who has a physical style and is strong in run support.

10. Kerry Rhodes, Jets. He is a playmaker who can excel in coverage or make an impact near the line as a run defender or blitzer. He figures to benefit from Rex Ryan's aggressive scheme and will likely align all over the field in a Ed Reed type of role. Look for him to return to Pro Bowl form this season.

11. Ken Hamlin, Cowboys. He has great range and can track down a lot of balls playing center field. He is at his best jumping routes in zone coverage but can also match up with tight ends and wideouts in the slot.

12. Oshiomogho Atogwe, Rams. A ballhawking safety, Atogwe has intercepted 13 passes and recovered four fumbles over the past two seasons. He also has increased his tackles each year in the league and has 13 forced fumbles over the past three seasons. He's the best player in the Rams' secondary and will get even more opportunities to make plays in Steve Spagnuolo's defense.

13. Jermaine Phillips, Buccaneers. Injuries have affected Phillips' numbers in recent seasons, but he is a still a physical defender in the run game and has more ball skills than most safeties. He turns 30 this year, and the Bucs are looking to get the younger and rangier Sabby Piscitelli in the lineup, so this could be Phillips' last appearance on the list.

14. Sean Jones, Eagles. This former Pro Bowler is a ferocious tackler who had 14 interceptions over his last three seasons in Cleveland. Though he is coming off a knee injury, the good news is he can play either safety spot, and if healthy, can deliver 100 tackles and five picks every season.

15. Quintin Mikell, Eagles. Mikell is coming off the best year of his career. Though he is a physical player who likes contact and is at his best near the line, he has the instincts and speed to play a free safety role. It wouldn't be a surprise to see he and Jones play together, with youngster Quintin Demps playing a backup role for now.

16. LaRon Landry, Redskins. Landry is another versatile player has the pop to handle run support and the agility and speed to play in deep coverage. He has proved he can close quickly on the ball in the run game. He was slowed by injury last year, but he should become one of the top young safeties in the league this season.

17. Brandon Meriweather, Patriots. He came on strong late in 2008 as the injury replacement for Rodney Harrison. Meriweather is a tough, hard-working run defender who eventually will excel as a deep safety, where his explosive speed and ball skills will be highlighted.

18. Darren Sharper, Saints. Sharper's skills have declined sharply as he heads towards 34. The Saints will use more blitz packages under new coordinator Gregg Williams, which means Sharper should have a chance to make plays on the ball as a deep cover player. He will get a chance to show he still has playmaking skills that made him one of the top safeties in the NFL.

19. Tanard Jackson, Buccaneers. A former cornerback, Jackson has excellent ball skills and the burst and speed to make plays on the ball. He's a willing run defender as well, and though he hasn't excelled in any one area, he is gaining valuable experience as a starter. He's a player to keep an eye on.

20. Roy Williams, Bengals. We're banking on coordinator Mike Zimmer as much as we are on Williams. The two worked together for many years in Dallas, and Zimmer knows Williams' strengths and weaknesses like the back of his hand. That, combined with Williams' eagerness to prove he can still play at a high level, will make him a player to watch.

RealScouts analyze NFL and college players, coaches and teams exclusively for Sporting News.

My thoughts:

Troy brings more versatility than Reed and makes the big plays as well as the routine plays that Reed doesn't make. Troy is #1. I'm not even sure Reed should be #2. Top 5 for sure though.

Adrian Wilson is a bit high on the list.

Interesting that we had their #2 and #5 in our secondary at the same time once.

Brandon Merriweather hasn't yet done enough to be on this list.

Roy Williams??? For reals???

The exclusion of Ryan Clark has me scratching my head. He may not be a "splash" player, but he rarely makes a mistake and intimidates with his big hits. I'd certainly put him ahead of Roy Williams. Roy Williams??? For reals???

MeetJoeGreene
05-28-2009, 02:40 PM
I was surprised that Clark was not on the list and Hope was that high.

I am not surprised by Reed at #1. I am not saying that I agree, but I am not surprised

fezziwig
05-28-2009, 03:11 PM
For all that Troy means to the defense outside of his individual play I, think he deserved number one. Ed's good but his interceptions are basically just that, interceptions. Troys interceptions are the impossible catch for anyone when that ball is in the air or him grabbing it a 1/4" before it hits the ground.

Ed Reed is going to get the spotlight for years to come, just like Ray Lewis, Warren Sapps and others that make it on their reputation rather than performance. Don't misunderstand me, Ed is still earning his spot in Hawai but at some point, he'll coast there due to his past performances and name. Just like Ray Ray, Warren Sapps to name a couple.

flippy
05-28-2009, 03:19 PM
Its hard to compare SSs and FSs.

IMHO, Troy is the best defensive player in the NFL regardless of position.

He's the player on the best defense in the league that the other teams must game plan against. He's a freak. And he truly makes the Steelers' D tick.

Ryan Clark is one of the most underrated guys in the league. I can't think of 10 safeties that are better.

fezziwig
05-28-2009, 03:46 PM
I have to agree about Ryan Clark. He is just as much a factor to our teams success as anyone. If Troy wasn't on the team I think he would get more attention or praise.
Many speak about what players that are important to maintaining come contract time and Ryan sure does fall into the mix.

I often think about players that come from losing or scrub teams to our Steeler teams and it must be night and day when it comes down to ownership, the entity of the team, cheering fans and knowing your always in the thick of things come playoffs.

Ryan from Washinton
Hartwig from Carolina
Hartings from Detroit
Our fullback from Detroit that, I can not recall his name correctly
Kemo from the Bengals

These guys really were on teams that didn't have a snowballs chance in hell of making the playoffs to even winning the Super Bowl

Then you have guys like :
Carey Davis
Gardocki Cleveland
Carter
Cedric Wilson

All of these guys stepped in and got to win a Super Bowl. Talk about going to the right team at the right time.

NorthCoast
05-28-2009, 05:57 PM
I have to agree about Ryan Clark. He is just as much a factor to our teams success as anyone. If Troy wasn't on the team I think he would get more attention or praise.
Many speak about what players that are important to maintaining come contract time and Ryan sure does fall into the mix.

I often think about players that come from losing or scrub teams to our Steeler teams and it must be night and day when it comes down to ownership, the entity of the team, cheering fans and knowing your always in the thick of things come playoffs.

Ryan from Washinton
Hartwig from Carolina
Hartings from Detroit
Our fullback from Detroit that, I can not recall his name correctly
Kemo from the Bengals

These guys really were on teams that didn't have a snowballs chance in hell of making the playoffs to even winning the Super Bowl

Then you have guys like :
Carey Davis
Gardocki Cleveland
Carter
Cedric Wilson

All of these guys stepped in and got to win a Super Bowl. Talk about going to the right team at the right time.

It's all about the setting of standards. The Steelers (and their fans) have very high standards both people-wise and playing-wise, with emphasis on the former. This has been borne out of the Steelers teams of the '70s and has continued to today. The bar is very, very high in Pittsburgh. Other franchises only wish they had such tradition on which to build.

BURGH86STEEL
05-28-2009, 06:24 PM
I agree that Troy should be number one because of his versatility. Hard to argue to much about Reid being number one. He is a very great safety that makes a lot of INTs. Those highlights got him the number one spot.

RuthlessBurgher
05-28-2009, 06:59 PM
Ask Wes Welker or Willis McGahee if they think Ryan Clark should be on this list.

On second thought, don't.

Hits like the ones Clark laid on those guys tend to cause short term memory loss.

Mel Blount's G
05-28-2009, 07:10 PM
Chris Hope = overated imo. Not sure I agree with the comments about his "coverage" I do know that we stopped getting beat over the top as often when Clark replaced Hope and Clark makes the decleating hits as much or more than Hope, which is supposed to be the #1 asset of Hope's. He had a good year last year but then he was surrounded by some talent as well. Average imo

I still regard Dawkins as one of the top safties in the league. Yeah he has slowed down but he is both a smart and a tenacious player who was the heart and soul of that iggles D for years. I'm sure he was brought into donkeytown for his leadership abilities since that team looks to be in full-on rebuilding mode.

And unfortunately Bob Sanders' style of play has taken it's toll on his body. Gotta love watching that guy bring it but it seems years since he's played an entire season. You could say the same of Troy but Troy made it a full season last year and you get the feeling that Troy is an unusually disciplined individual who takes extraordinary care of his body and mind, which may give him a greater physiological endurance than your average kamikaze safety i.e. Sanders, Clark, etc..

I'm surprised these probable patty*** swallowers didn't put Dirty Harri on the list :wink:

Steel Life
05-28-2009, 11:58 PM
Troy = 73 Tackles (5 for loss), 7 Int.
Reed = 41 Tackles (0 for loss), 9 Int.

So interceptions are roughly equal whereas tackles are at close to a 2-to-1 advantage. What does this tell you?...That highlight plays are all the media sees, hence the difference between the two. They don't realize the difference in position, but more importantly the overall contribution - just like they do with Steeler players in general (Ward, Miller, Aaron, etc.) - they only see what they want to.

Captain Lemming
05-29-2009, 01:17 AM
Troy = 73 Tackles (5 for loss), 7 Int.
Reed = 41 Tackles (0 for loss), 9 Int.

So interceptions are roughly equal whereas tackles are at close to a 2-to-1 advantage. What does this tell you?...That highlight plays are all the media sees, hence the difference between the two. They don't realize the difference in position, but more importantly the overall contribution - just like they do with Steeler players in general (Ward, Miller, Aaron, etc.) - they only see what they want to.

Exactly! And before someone says, But Reed is a "free" safety. Clarke had more total tackles than Troy or Reed.

He only defends the run when someone breaks loose into the secondary. Reed has the ridiculous luxury of doing nothing but cover deep and break on balls. Steeler CORNERS have more run responsibility than Reed has.

Troy has seven picks even though he plays the run.
If Troy could just wait on errant passes all game long, with his uncanny anticipation, and his ability to cover ground he would easily do what Reed does. And he has the same ability to take it to the house.

Reed makes great splash plays. ESPN highlight plays.
However, I have never seen Reed make a play that Troys cannot make.
Troy makes plays that Reed cannot dream of making. Heck Troy makes plays that nobody else in league history could make. Reed is very talented. Troy is a freak.

Put Troy on the Ravens at free safety (yes free safety) and they are a better defense.
Ed Reed is incapable of doing what Troy does for the Steelers.

Mister Pittsburgh
05-29-2009, 01:23 AM
Troy had 2 less interceptions than Reed, yet two of the best interceptions ever. First he lays out and gets the ninja interception he caught with a hangnail, then he wins the AFCCG with an interception that sealed the game.

Gotta give it to the safety that won the game. There was some Reed/ Troy hype before that game and Troy came up with the monster play. Troy is #1 no doubt.....and I think our safety tandem is damn near #1 in the NFL.

Steelerphile
05-29-2009, 07:38 AM
Chris Hope still tends to be very underrrated by Steelers followers IMO. When the outside analysts review the evidence, Chris Hope always gets high marks, but for some reason a lot of Steelers fans choose to shut their eyes to his quality play.

Ryan Clark also tends to be overrated by the same group. He is not a top safety. He is a sentimental favorite. He got a few highlight reel and (borderline late) hits. An overachiever, probably. He is not an outstanding athlete and his range and instincts in pass coverage are below average.

BURGH86STEEL
05-29-2009, 07:47 AM
Chris Hope still tends to be very underrrated by Steelers followers IMO. When the outside analysts review the evidence, Chris Hope always gets high marks, but for some reason a lot of Steelers fans choose to shut their eyes to his quality play.

Ryan Clark also tends to be overrated by the same group. He is not a top safety. He is a sentimental favorite. He got a few highlight reel and (borderline late) hits. An overachiever, probably. He is not an outstanding athlete and his range and instincts in pass coverage are below average.

Hope leaving the Steelers has something to do with those opinions. I think some of those opinions also have to do with the homer ism by fans.

Slapstick
05-29-2009, 08:23 AM
It also has to do with the fact that Hope left and the Steelers defense didn't miss a beat...

That leads me to believe that it is perhaps the Steelers system that isn't particularly demanding for Free Safety play...

SMASHMOUTHFOOTBALL
05-29-2009, 08:27 AM
Clark should be at #15 at least!

Captain Lemming
05-29-2009, 10:25 AM
The fact is Steeler fans have seen both guys play on the SAME defense. This gives Steeler fans an advantage in comparing the two.

Hope moves on and is the by far best secondary player on that team after being overshadowed particularly by Troy in Pittsburgh. He gets a ridiculous number of tackles as a safety in that defense, impossible to do on our team.

Steeler fans worried when we lost Hope, but Clarke has been the better player on the same defense. Hope is talented, but Clarke is smarter. He rarely makes mistakes, is always where he is supposed to be, and while Hope is a hitter Clarke hits harder. Hope may be faster, but Clarke gets beat deep less often. Put down the measuring tape, put the stopwatch in your pocket, and see what they do on the same defense.

Hope is an excellent safety. But if he were still a Steeler he would have remained overshadowed by the amazing play of Troy.

Not only did we not miss a beat, our secondary has improved with Ryan Clark replacing Chris Hope.




Chris Hope still tends to be very underrrated by Steelers followers IMO. When the outside analysts review the evidence, Chris Hope always gets high marks, but for some reason a lot of Steelers fans choose to shut their eyes to his quality play.

Ryan Clark also tends to be overrated by the same group. He is not a top safety. He is a sentimental favorite. He got a few highlight reel and (borderline late) hits. An overachiever, probably. He is not an outstanding athlete and his range and instincts in pass coverage are below average.

aggiebones
05-29-2009, 01:26 PM
We lose Hope and replace him with Clark and don't miss a beat, so:

Either both Clark and Hope are equally top players.
Or both suck and Troy and the rest of the defense carries them.

Either way, they either should both be on or off the list.

fezziwig
05-29-2009, 06:01 PM
I think Ryan is a lot better than Hope, a lot better.

Steel Life
05-31-2009, 11:09 AM
I think Ryan is a lot better than Hope, a lot better.
Agreed...but I think it's definitely time to groom a replacement. We've got some guys in camp that have some upside, but next year's draft will be LOADED with safeties so the future starters may not even be on the team yet.