With our preview on the Top 5 players at each position for the upcoming 2013 season, the next position I will look at is cornerback. If you haven’t seen my 2013 NFL Preview: Top 5 tight ends, or any other position previews by other staff members here at NFL Spin Zone, be sure to check those out. Now with that being said, there are corner backs in this league whose plays could have put them on my list. So much talent on every defense in the league, no matter how bad their teams record, have stepped up and made plays when they had to and most stayed consistent. Like every other position in this league, there has been some greats to master this position. When it comes to corner backs, we have seen some of the most shut-down, hard hitting defenders to ever step foot on the field, such as, Deion Sanders, Willie Brown, Rod Woodson, Mel Blount, Mike Haynes, Lem Barney, Ty Law, Darrell Green, Everson Walls, Troy Vincent, and Dick Lane. This list I am about to roll out includes a set of guys that surely will be Hall of Fame players after they retire from this beautiful game. Shut down corners, speedy, ability to punch the ball out of a quick receivers grasp while staying stride for stride with him. At the end of the article, I will have a list of honorable mentions. I present to you, my list of the Top 5 corner-backs coming into the 2013 season. Starting off with:
1. Tim Jennings, Chicago Bears -
Jennings career started off kind of slow, compared to this season. Being drafted in the Super Bowl season for the Indianapolis Colts who defeated his current team the Chicago Bears. He is a very important piece to this defense and it showed when he missed a few games due to an injured shoulder in Week 13 against the Seattle Seahawks. During the season Jennings picked off quarterbacks 9 times (14 being the record held by Dick Lane) and recorded 60 tackles. Before coming into Chicago he only had 4 interceptions in 4 seasons with the Colts. In just 3 seasons, he has pulled in 12 interceptions and returned 1 for a touchdown with the Monsters of the Midway. I am excited to see what Jennings will do this season, hopefully he can stay healthy and start all 16 games.
2. Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears -
Charles “Punch-Out” Tillman, a 10 year veteran with the Chicago Bears had a career high 10 forced fumbles. He set the record for most forced fumbles in a game against the Tennessee Titans with 4 and tied New York Giant’s Osi Umenyiora with 10 in a single season. Tillman has the most forced fumbles by a corner back in NFL history with 39 and he isn’t showing signs of slowing down. His hand-eye coordination is off the charts. The ability to keep stride for stride with a ball carrier and punch that ball out with such accuracy is just beautiful. While he was punching balls loose, he was also returning interceptions for touchdowns, in which he had 3. He recorded 86 tackles, 10 forced fumbles, 3 ints returned for touchdowns in all 16 games this season. Career totals for Tillman (10 years) as of the end of the 2012 season are a whopping 800 total tackles, 39 forced fumbles, 112 passes deflected, 33 interceptions and 8 returns for touchdowns.
3. Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals -
A threat in multiple positions on the field, corner back, return specialist and (not much of a threat here but) has been lined up a few times in the slot on offense. A rookie who exploded onto the scene with 4 punt returns (tied Devin Hester) and 7 interceptions in 2011, also has the most punt return yards by a rookie in a season with 699. A 22 year old who is going into his 3rd season, has been sent to the pro bowl twice in just his first 2 seasons in the league. In 2 seasons he has recorded 119 total tackles, 1 sack, 9 interceptions and 4 punt returns for touchdowns. So young and because of the way this kid started off, I don’t even think he has reached his all-time best yet, which is scary. We will just have to wait and see. This kid is going to be dangerous in his career.
4. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks - A corner back who is built like a wide receiver at 6’3″, this man is a monster. In a young budding career, only 2 years out of Stanford, Sherman has recorded 4 interceptions in his rookie season as part of one the best defenses in the league. This past season he picked off 8 passes and returned 2 of them for 6 points. A confident young player who has taunted greats like Tom Brady and has gotten into trash talking sessions after games with players, should keep up the pace as long as he doesn’t get himself into any trouble.
5. Casey Hayward, Green Bay Packers - The last man on my list, is the rookie out of Vanderbilt. Hayward finished the year 4th on a list for interceptions by corner-backs with 6 and having 1 forced fumble. A kid who has the great Charles Woodson (Strong Safety/Corner-Back) by his side, giving him advice and tips, could be dangerous for the rest of the league. On-top of his interceptions, he recorded a total of 53 tackles. A for sure all around corner of this league, maybe even a future Charles Woodson.
Honorable Mentions -
Chris Harris Jr, Denver Broncos - 2 year corner back who played for the University of Kansas, went undrafted before being signed by the Denver Broncos as a free agent in 2011. He has recorded 133 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 18 passes deflected and 4 interceptions. He set a franchise record for the longest interception returned for a touchdown (98 yards) against the Baltimore Ravens. Also tied the Broncos single season record with 2 interceptions returned for a touchdown and 4th most interception return yards in team history during the 2012 season. – Shout out to Joe Soriano for this honorable mention.
Lardarius Webb, Baltimore Ravens - Webb was lost to a torn ACL after playing 6 games during the regular season. A defense who struggled early against the pass, Webb proved to be one of their top defenders, recording 25 total tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 6 passes deflected and 1 interception. If Webb would have stayed healthy, I wonder what type of numbers he would have put up. Let’s see how he bounces back as he is set to return for the defending Super Bowl champions. - Shout out to Todd Levinson Frank for this honorable mention.
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets - “There is a reason why teams are salivating and lining up around the block from MetLife Stadium once rumors began that Revis was on the trade market. It’s because he is that elite and that much better. When he is on the field that side is shut down plain and simple. As a defense you only have to worry about the rest of the field. I can understand David leaving him off this list cause who knows what kind of season he’ll have coming off an injury, but he could break back into this top 5 very quickly.” -Mike Dyce
Cortland Finnegan, St. Louis Rams - The hot headed, in your face corner who we all love and hate at the same time, changed teams. Career high in tackles with a total of 101, he recorded 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 3 interceptions in which he returned 1 for a touchdown.
Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns - 3 year veteran out of Florida, has been a key part of Cleveland’s pass defense. Quick look at his stats, last season he pulled in 3 interceptions bringing his career total to 9 and recorded 51 total tackles bringing them to a total of 180.
Antoine Winfield, Minnesota Vikings - Winfield was behind Finnegan for most tackles in the season by corner backs, tallying up the same amount of interceptions. 14 year veteran has a total of 972 tackles, 89 passes deflected and 27 interceptions with 2 returned for touchdowns. He wants to finish out his contract and retire a Minnesota Viking, 2013 could be the last year this future hall of fame corner plays.
Jason McCourty, Tennessee Titans - Had the 4th highest tackles by a corner on the season behind Finnegan, Winfield and DeAngelo Hall. McCourty recorded 92 total tackles, 15 passes deflected and 1 forced fumble and 4 interceptions.
Brandon Flowers, Kansas City Chiefs - A star player on a struggling Kansas City Chiefs defense or team at that, Flowers has always been able to contribute and stay consistent. In only 5 years in the league he has 16 interceptions and 3 returned for a touchdown. - Shout out to Aaron Stafford for this honorable mention.
DeAngelo Hall, Washington Redskins - Definitely one of the greatest to ever play this game. Had the 3rd highest tackles recorded by a corner in 2012 with 95, had 4 interceptions which brought his total career mark for interceptions to 39.