View Full Version : USA Today top 10 CB's

06-12-2011, 10:39 PM
Guess who isnt even mentioned. Maybe Colbert can show this to his agent.

1. Darrelle Revis (80), New York Jets

2. Nnamdi Asomugha (67), Oakland Raiders

3. Charles Woodson (63), Green Bay Packers

4. Asante Samuel (46), Philadelphia Eagles

5. Champ Bailey (41), Denver Broncos

6. Tramon Williams (29), Green Bay Packers

7. Devin McCourty (27), New England Patriots

8. Antoine Winfield (23), Minnesota Vikings

9. Brent Grimes (12), Atlanta Falcons

10. Aqib Talib (11), Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Others receiving votes: DeAngelo Hall, Redskins (9); Leon Hall, Bengals (6); Brandon Flowers, Chiefs (4); Joe Haden, Browns (4); Dunta Robinson, Falcons (4); Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cardinals (4); Ronde Barber, Buccaneers (3); Terence Newman, Cowboys (3); Vontae Davis, Dolphins (2); Cortland Finnegan, Titans (2).

It seems cornerbacks have been reinventing their position in recent years, expanding the scope and duties of the job. On any given play they might provide run support when it's clear the ball won't be coming their way in the air, or sprinting at the quarterback off the edge as a surprise pass rusher ... as if corners don't take enough chances shadowing receivers in an array of man-to-man and zone-coverage schemes.

It can mean quite a bit of added responsibility in an era where they must defend against the pass on seemingly every down. Consider February's Super Bowl, in which 42 of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 55 defensive plays (76%) involved shutting down the Green Bay Packers' passing game. The Steelers, who allowed the second-fewest yards in the league in 2010, entered the game knowing their mission would be to slow down Green Bay's multifaceted passing attack. But executing that game plan was quite another story, as the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers were intent on testing Pittsburgh's secondary, whose corners could be exploited if Rodgers was protected from the Steelers pass rush.

In the end, Green Bay won 31-25 to secure its fourth Vince Lombardi Trophy and 13th NFL championship, largely because Rodgers peppered the Pittsburgh secondary for 304 yards and three touchdown passes on his way to earning game MVP honors.

But Packers cornerbacks Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields were a major reason Green Bay advanced to the Super Bowl, turning in crucial plays throughout the playoffs, including a combined five interceptions for Williams and Shields. They ultimately helped limit Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to 263 passing yards in the Super Bowl, during which he was also picked off twice, crippling his shot at a third championship ring.

Such game changers are nice, but interceptions alone don't accurately offer the full measure of a cornerback's effectiveness. If anything, the league's best corners stand out despite minimal interception and pass-breakup totals, demonstrating the respect they get from offensive coordinators and quarterbacks determined to not get beaten by a player who can negate even the best wideouts in isolation matchups.

"I think it's the quarterback first and the defensive back second," former NFL safety and current NFL Network analyst Solomon Wilcots said when asked about the most important players in today's NFL.

"Dick LeBeau (the Hall of Fame cornerback for the Detroit Lions and current Steelers defensive coordinator) used to always tell us, 'If you make a mistake in the secondary, it almost always ends with the official holding two arms up in the end zone.' You slip, touchdown; one wrong step, touchdown; you don't turn and open your hips fast enough, touchdown; you misread the defense, touchdown.

"(For) the cornerback in a one-on-one situation with the game's fastest players, one wrong step is doomsday. It means the other team's celebrating, pom-poms are waving, scoreboards lighting up and guess what: You can't hide and can't point any fingers because everybody knows it was you that got beat. But, if you play really well, everybody can see that, too. You can help out a guy, but you can't cover him up for four quarters. You're on that island."

Which might explain why New York Jets all-pro Darrelle Revis, USA TODAY's unanimous choice as the game's best at the position, guards territory known as "Revis Island," as in: No receiver gets on or off of it if Revis has anything to say about it.

Last season few even tried to make the voyage after Revis recovered from an early-season hamstring injury that was perhaps a byproduct of his protracted training camp holdout. But, for the balance of the season, the 5-11, 198-pounder shifted offensive strategies away from his side of the field by neutralizing wide receivers such as the Lions' Calvin Johnson and the Houston Texans' Andre Johnson, who combined for five catches and 45 yards against Revis.

A season after he led the league's top-rated pass defense by intercepting six passes, Revis in 2010 posted none (and was credited with 10 passes broken up) yet was voted to the Pro Bowl and first-team all-pro. More important, he helped the Jets reach the AFC title game for the second consecutive season.

At 25, Revis has tremendous upside and might have his best football ahead of him. For now, he defines how the position is played, and his take-no-prisoners approach is a big part of his effectiveness.

"First of all, it's his mentality," said Jets defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman, who played cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980s.

"The great corners, they play man-to-man and accept the challenge. They know going into the game that they have an assignment to do, and that is to shut down to the best of their ability the man they're covering. So you have to accept and welcome the one-on-one matchup outside, knowing that much of the time you're not going to get much help.

"I think he has the right mental makeup, and that's why he's the player he is. He has great balance technique-wise; he has great hand-eye coordination; the ability to change directions. He's very seldom out of position, but his focus and concentration to deal with you individually is probably his biggest strength."

Though Revis seems to have cornered the market as the game's best at his craft after four seasons, plenty of players share his approach and have built or are constructing similar resumes. Free agent Nnamdi Asomugha is often mentioned with Revis when the top cornerbacks are discussed. Asomugha ranks second in USA TODAY's voting and was a near-unanimous No. 2 to Revis.

Asomugha, who spent eight years with the Oakland Raiders before his hefty contract (it would have carried at least a $16.8 million price tag in 2011) was voided in January, will have plenty of suitors when the NFL's labor situation is settled. His ability to seal off one side of the field could make him one of the league's wealthiest men.

Veterans set prototype

Woodson and Champ Bailey have spent much of the past decade elevating the profile of cornerbacks as they grudgingly pass the torch to Revis and Asomugha. Woodson didn't really need a Super Bowl ring to cement his Hall of Fame credentials, but he can add that to his Canton dossier after the pain — Woodson broke his collarbone before halftime in Super Bowl XLV— and pleasure of defeating the Steelers.

Woodson's versatility — no doubt enhanced by a second season of guidance from veteran defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who deploys Woodson outside, in the slot and even at safety — makes him even more of a threat. His league-leading nine pickoffs — three of them returned for touchdowns — 74 tackles and four forced fumbles helped him earn defensive player of the year honors in 2009.

Quarterbacks frequently steered clear of Woodson in 2010 (his interception total plummeted to two). Williams' star began rising quickly as a result; he pilfered six passes in the regular season before getting three more in the playoffs — including a game-sealer at the Philadelphia Eagles and a momentum-mounting theft returned for 70 yards and a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons. Up-and-coming Williams (who earned a four-year extension worth upward of $30 million last year) forms perhaps the league's top duo with Woodson, who shows few signs of decline at age 34.

"I think that the important thing is you just try to get better every year," Woodson said on Super Bowl media day. "You get better at some aspect of your game, and, over the course of my career, I have been able to play at a high level playing at the cornerback position.

"The last few years, I have been able to do a lot as far as moving around and playing multiple positions in Dom Capers' defense. That part has been a lot of fun for me. It's kept the game fresh for me and just allowed me to be in a position to make plays."

The same can be said for Bailey. He was the lone bright spot on a horrific Denver Broncos defense last season, earning his 10th Pro Bowl invite in the last 11 seasons while making his side of the field a no-fly zone.

"No question, he's what you look for in a cornerback," said Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who coached Bailey for five seasons in Denver after acquiring him (and a second-round pick) from the Redskins in 2004.

"He has speed, he has length, he has intelligence. From the years we spent together, I also learned that you couldn't ask for a better person."

Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowler Asante Samuel swiped seven passes in 2010 (he and Woodson were among a quartet of players who led the league with nine picks the year before), three more than Asomugha (zero), Bailey (two), Revis (zero) and Woodson (two) combined. That statistic stands out. Samuel has 42 career interceptions, including an NFL-high 10 for the New England Patriots in 2006, a fair indicator that quarterbacks are willing to target him.

But Samuel has been a playmaker, if an occasional risk taker, throughout his eight NFL seasons, and his numbers are byproducts of opportunities he has created. While Wilcots notes that low interception numbers are solid indicators of a corner's effectiveness, it's a two-way street; stats such as Samuel's also suggest how much of a factor he can be.

"(Interceptions) belie the point," Wilcots said. "There are some very good corners in this league, but because they don't show up on the interception list, people don't give them credit.

"Interceptions are big plays and get a lot of attention because all coaches look for big plays out of their players. Those interceptions tell coaches that, 'I'm not just out here as a defender. I'm an offensive weapon on the defensive side of the ball.' That's how important it is, and turnovers are a (key) determining factor other than the score."

Breathing down Revis' neck

Williams might head a list of youngsters who could vie to dethrone Revis in the near future. The Miami Dolphins' Vontae Davis, the Cleveland Browns' Joe Haden and perhaps even recently drafted Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals are others to keep an eye on.

Williams, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Texans in 2006 — it's now hard to believe they cut him, given their secondary's woes — credits Woodson's mentoring for shaping him into the kind of player mentioned in the same sentence as the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner.

"Anytime you are surrounded by a caliber player like Charles, you have no choice but to step your game up, because they're not going to go to his side that much," Williams said before the Super Bowl. The guy next to him definitely has to know what's going on out there. He's done a great job with me as far as film study and other things on and off the field. He's definitely been a part of my progress in Green Bay."

A few other rising talents made USA TODAY's top 10 list:

• New England's Devin McCourty started from Day One for coach Bill Belichick and availed himself with a Pro Bowl effort that included 82 tackles and seven interceptions, good for second in the league.

• Like Williams, the Atlanta Falcons' Brent Grimes progressed from undrafted anonymity in 2006 to Pro Bowler opposite Dunta Robinson in 2010, finishing with 87 tackles, five picks and 23 pass break-ups.

• The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Aqib Talib has improved every season since he was a rookie in 2008. He swiped six passes in 2010, giving him 15 for his career, despite being limited to 11 games. But Talib's off-field activities are a major concern for the Bucs. He missed the 2010 opener, suspended by the league in the wake of assault charges, and then was accused of firing a gun at his sister's boyfriend in Texas in March.

Though it could be a stretch to suggest that this might be a golden era for cornerbacks —Deion Sanders, whose size, speed, athleticism and versatility helped redefine the position during his prime in the 1990s, will enter the Hall of Fame this summer — it's not far-fetched to think that it is entering another realm.

Said Wilcots: "I don't know that our league has ever asked corners do as much as they're doing now within the scheme and to do it in a variety of ways."


PHOTOS: NFL's top 10 cornerbacks of 2011
THE TOP 10: How the votes landed

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football ... acks_N.htm (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/2011-06-05-nfl-best-cornerbacks_N.htm)

06-13-2011, 09:50 AM
You can't afford to get or have little chance to get anyone on that list.

Ike's value is that he is someone we do have a chance of getting and if we do he would remain the best CB we have. Not a high standard for sure but he fits what we need him to do.

06-13-2011, 10:23 AM
DeAngelo Hall got 9 votes? He sucks out loud. Sure, he gets INT's because he takes chances, but taking those chances means that he gives up even more big plays to the other team.

06-13-2011, 12:27 PM
Hall is VERY good every 8 games or so.
That counts for something. :moon