New England Patriots No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib looks like a man on a mission this season, and we didn’t expect any less from the uber-talented Patriots CB. Talib signed a one-year, $5 million prove-it deal with the Patriots this offseason in lieu of a convoluted cornerback free agent market, and he knew full well coming into this season that a huge year will lead to a big payday. Based on the way he has played through four weeks, Aqib Talib is setting himself up nicely for a large chunk of coin. But it goes beyond money, as Talib looks far more motivated to play the game after buying in to the Patriots as a team, and he has also gotten the Patriots defensive scheme down pat now that he has had an offseason to get to work. And boy, did he work hard that offseason. As you will see in this post, Aqib Talib has earned praise- and even an offseason accolade- for his work ethic, which has improved considerably from his days with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I criticized Aqib Talib for getting too much credit last season, and I still stand by that criticism. Talib played pretty well overall, but he wasn’t as good as some people made him out to be. The main benefit of his trade was bringing in a cornerback of at least some competence on the outside, thus allowing Kyle Arrington to move to the slot (awful on the outside, very good in the slot) and Devin McCourty (very good at CB, an elite player at FS) to move to free safety. That ripple effect on the secondary was significant, but now Aqib Talib is providing a big impact on the New England Patriots this season through his play alone.
Talib has been absolutely incredible these past two weeks, and we are seeing him play at his finest. He has elite potential, and Talib is finally putting it all together through motivation and consistent high-level performance that we haven’t seen from the talented Kansas product to this point. He absolutely shut down an elite wideout in Vincent Jackson in Week 3 after taking on the challenge, and the top-notch press corner showed off elite ball skills with four passes defended yesterday, including a clutch play at the end of the game. He’s looked like a fantastic corner so far this year (though he did have a rough Week 1), and it’s about time we saw this kind of play from a guy as talented as Talib.
Fellow cornerback Kyle Arrington certainly thinks highly of Aqib Talib, and he gave the fellow former Buccaneer some big praise (most of it was for Talib’s work ethic) on Mut and Merloni, “Aqib, he brings such a tremendous work ethic to the game, at our position. It’s fun out there watching him. He’s one of those guys where I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Bill Belichick gave plenty of praise to Talib as well at today’s press conference, and he also focused on intangibles. “Aqib has done a good job for us, done a real good job. Smart player, good communicator, really competes hard, really competes well every day in practice and competes well on the field, whatever he’s asked to do – man coverage, zone coverage, tackling, special teams – whatever it is, he really works hard, competes hard and a smart guy with good skills. He’s a good football player. He communicates well with his teammates. He’s one of our offseason award winners so he’s put in a lot of hard work and he’s had some good result.”