There’s no doubt that this is a renaissance era for the cornerback position. With the NFL turning into more and more of a passing league with every year, the best cornerbacks are worth more than ever — no matter where on the field they play. Our six top players at the position all play outside for the most part, but the addition of two slot defenders jives with a predominant NFL trend. These days, most teams travel with three starting cornerbacks. Here, without further ado, are the 10 players we feel play the position at the highest possible level.
Any Eagles make it?
7. Brandon Boykin, Philadelphia Eagles
Boykin was the best slot cornerback in the NFL last year, and a breath of fresh air on an Eagles defense that was too often betwixt and between in Billy Davis’ new schemes. Boykin picked off six passes last season, and all of them came in the slot, where he was targeted 75 times and gave up 44 receptions for 562 yards. That percentage is impressive because slot cornerbacks are asked to cover slants and other simple routes that are generally easy completions. Add in that Boykin allowed just two touchdowns all season, and that’s one more than he scored — he took a pick 54 yards to the house against the Bears in Week 16.
Wow, that high praise indeed.
Nolan Carroll was honorable mention for his 2013 performance with the Dolphins. No wonder he’s been so impressive this spring and summer.
“Last year, I was just trying to learn all the plays and this year working on the craft within the plays, and it makes you feel a lot more comfortable,” he said.
“Instead of going 1-2 run, it’s 1-2-3-4 and getting through all my progressions, and I think that’s what Chip wants to see from me, going through all my progressions. Because he knows I can run, he knows I’ve got the athletic part, just being able to go through my progressions is big for me.”
Last summer Kinne was used on STs at times. Now he’s trying to steal the #3 QB job from Matt Barkley. What a difference a year can make.
“When you put Sproles in that role of coming out of the backfield on linebackers, you need help somewhere,” Davis said. “He’s such a receiving threat and an open-field threat. You put him in the box between the tackles, OK. You put him in space against some of our defensive backs? That man is tough.”
And Sproles is still a talented RB.
“There’s no doubt that Darren is a running back,” running backs coach Duce Staley said. “Darren, his quickness is unbelievable. . . . I’ve seen him make some cuts in OTAs, like, wow, this guy looks like a rookie. He’s able to put his foot in the ground and can get upfield. I already have one that can do that. To have two is a blessing.”
The Eagles certainly have given Staley some talented RBs to work with in his short time as a coach. Nice gig.
Philadelphia is one of those teams where there are always a number of good contracts. They are one of the best run front offices in the league and are often signing very team friendly contracts. There were a few places I thought of going with this including Brent Celek (who got the nod last season), Trent Cole, and even Riley Cooper, but thought that the Jason Kelce contract was just a bit better than all the others on the books.
Kelce is one of the bright young centers in the game, having started every game he was healthy enough to play in since his rookie year in 2011. Kelce was entering the final year of his contract and would have likely become a free agent in 2015 as the cost of the Franchise tag for centers is usually prohibitive for using a tag on the position. Kelce’s deal was also important for the Eagles to do sooner rather than later since they realized that the market could potentially change once Alex Mack hit free agency, not to mention expected extensions for the Pouncey brothers. While teams were awaiting final word on salary cap possibilities the Eagles entered into negotiations with their players and signed them before the new salary cap rise was made public knowledge.
The Eagles pretty much hit it right on all accounts. The higher priced centers did seem to extend the market. The salary cap rise was large. None of it mattered to Philadelphia as Kelce was locked into a six year extension that pays $6.25 million a season. The value of the contract over the first three and four years is just $6 million a season and the signing bonus was also $6 million. By 2016 Kelce could be released with $3.6 million in cap charges and the last two years of the contract carry no dead money.
Over the first three years of the contract Kelce’s cap charge will never exceed $6.2 million and the Eagles did not give away much upside to get that. Kelce can only incase the value of the contract by $200,000 for each time he makes the Pro Bowl. The guarantee per year and percent guaranteed in the contract are well below the norms for a player in his salary range. About the only thing missing that could have benefitted the Eagles would have been per game roster bonuses to protect in the event of injury. That’s a very minor quibble on a very good contract.
For the worst Eagles contract, Fitzgerald chose TE James Casey. Go read his post to get the full details, but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out why he sees Casey as having a bad deal.
Jason Kelce played well in 2013, after missing most of the 2012 season due to an ACL tear. There was some question about whether an athletic offensive lineman like him would have any drop-off after coming off a serious knee injury.
Kelce had another strong season and is one of the most talented and athletic blockers in the entire league. Bob Ford wrote a good piece on him and got OL coach Jeff Stoutland to open up about his stud center.
“I get calls from other line coaches about Kelce, and they are like: ‘This guy is unbelievable in space,’ ” Stoutland said. “Many times, those big offensive lineman in space look like cows on ice. They can’t change direction or stop on a dime. Jason Kelce is totally the opposite of that. When he gets outside the blocking box – whether on a screen pass or a sweep or a play to the perimeter – he always takes the right angle at the right target.”
The Eagles CBs are at their best when pressing and allowed to play physical. If officials call a tighter game, the corners just aren’t as effective.
Bill Davis does like to point out that the Eagles adjust to how the officials call a particular game. He and the coaches talk to the players and let them know to get away with what they can, but to be prepared to back off if necessary.
If the above news is true, the coaches may be telling the guys to be careful a lot this year.