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-King-
06-24-2011, 01:07 PM
Discus

Young faces join Reed, Polamalu among NFL's best safeties

By Pat Kirwan NFL.com


The position known as "safety" was dubbed years ago because it was the last line of the defense. While it still exists in the same name, much about the position has changed over the past 10 years.

The coaching point for safeties was "always stay as deep as the deep." Players who were too slow to play cornerback or too small to play linebacker were often sent off to be safeties. Then came the offensive innovations such as flexing tight ends off the line of scrimmage, motioning running backs out of the backfield and three-receiver packages. They changed the value of the safety position, forcing teams to look for defenders who could literally do it all.
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Safeties in today's NFL are masters of disguise. They are players who can blitz, serve as the eighth man in the box, line up against No. 3 receivers and possess man-to-man cover skills.

Technically, there are 64 starting safeties across the league. But the emergence of the 'Big Nickel' package made popular by Bill Belichick brings a third safety on the field to replace a linebacker in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, utilizing a player who can handle the matchup nightmares offenses present with different formations and packages.

As former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher has said, "Today's safeties are smaller and faster, but they break down when having to defend the run play in and play out."

Here is my list of the top 30 safeties, but realize that strong and free safeties are interchangeable in the modern game and listed together. As I have done with the other position rankings this spring, the players are listed in groups of five and in alphabetical order within each group. Each player listed has either an (^) for players on the rise and has room for growth, (>) for players maintaining their status and playing at their peak level or (v) for those who can't sustain their level of play and are on the decline.
GROUP A

1. Nick Collins, Packers (^): A rising star at free safety who is the perfect fit in Dom Capers' pressure defense. He has 17 interceptions and 40 passes defended over the past three seasons.

2. Louis Delmas, Lions (^): An emerging free safety who too many coaches pointed to when I asked for some new names at the position.

3. Troy Polamalu, Steelers (>): The master of every trick in the book. Polamalu has completed a 16-game season in only three of his seven seasons because of his physical style of play. He has missed 13 regular-season games the last three seasons but still has 17 interceptions and 35 passes defended.

4. Ed Reed, Ravens (>): A free safety with special ball-hawking skills. He has missed 10 games in the past three years and still has 11 interceptions in his last 22 games. Reed is a Hall of Fame player and the best deep middle player in the NFL. He's forced 32 turnovers (interceptions and forced fumbles) the last four years.

5. Earl Thomas, Seahawks (^): The only person who has coached both Polamalu and Thomas is Pete Carroll, who told me at the end of the season that Thomas is the closest he's ever seen to Polamalu's skills. Thomas had five interceptions as a rookie, the same number as Reed and more than both Collins and Polamalu.
GROUP B

6. Eric Berry, Chiefs (^): Berry had a phenomenal rookie season with 72 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions and nine passes defended. A Pro Bowler in his first season, and the sky is the limit.

7. Antoine Bethea, Colts (>): The one constant in a Colts secondary littered with injuries, Bethea hasn't missed a game in three seasons. His numbers aren't great, but he's a solid player on a defense that's always defending the pass because the Colts' offense scores so quickly.

8. Roman Harper, Saints (>): An underrated strong safety who averages 75 tackles per season and will deliver 3-4 sacks as well. He also forced six fumbles last year, another indicator he's always around the ball.

9. LaRon Landry, Redskins (>): Landry missed seven games last year, but still had 66 tackles for the season.

10. Dawan Landry, Ravens (>): A physical player who keeps the secondary tied together when Reed has been out with injuries. He will be a free agent, and Baltimore has to try and retain his services. Landry was in on more than 100 total tackles in 2010.
GROUP C

11. Yeremiah Bell, Dolphins (>): Bell spent most of his first four years as a backup but has been a starter at strong safety the past three seasons, and very productive since 2008. In his last 48 games he has 275 tackles, five forced fumbles, four sacks, four interceptions and 23 passes defended.

12. Ryan Clark, Steelers (v): His skills allow Polamalu be the creative free lancer he needs to be. Clark's production does not show up in gaudy numbers, but his play is solid and he is always in the right place in Dick LeBeau's defense.

13. Charles Godfrey, Panthers (>): Moved from cornerback to safety immediately after joining the league in 2008. He puts up the tackle totals of a strong safety and also picked off five passes in 2010 as he grows more comfortable with the position.

14. Michael Griffin, Titans (^): Griffin had the best season in his four-year career with 86 tackles, four interceptions, 12 passes defended and two forced fumbles last season.

15. Adrian Wilson, Cardinals (>): A bit of a throwback player with excellent skills near the line of scrimmage, but a little lacking in deep coverage ability. Wilson is an excellent leader and over the past two seasons has delivered 162 total tackles, four sacks and seven interceptions.
GROUP D

16. Jairus Byrd, Bills (^): Had nine interceptions two years ago as a rookie, but only one in 2010. Byrd doubled his total tackles in 2010 (89) and forced three fumbles.

17. Chris Hope, Titans (v): Hope is not going to intercept a lot of passes but will make a lot of solid plays, much like Clark of the Steelers.

18. Antrel Rolle, Giants (>): The Cardinals' defense suffered when Rolle left in free agency last year. He had one interception for the Giants in 2010 after recording 10 interceptions during the three previous seasons. A free safety who does a solid job in the deep middle of the field, or in the deep half in the Cover 2.

19. T.J. Ward, Browns (^): The Browns' second-round pick in 2010 -- who at one point was a college walk-on -- was more than a pleasant surprise because of his physical style. The future looks very bright for Ward.

20. Eric Weddle, Chargers (^): He is scheduled to be a free agent and it wouldn't surprise me if new Panthers coach Ron Rivera pursues him. Weddle is very bright and is like a coach on the field. He has 250 tackles the last three seasons and had his finest season against the pass in 2010 with 10 passes defended.
GROUP E

21. O.J. Atogwe, Redskins (>): Now a member of the Redskins, Atogwe seems to always be around the ball making a play. He has 18 interceptions, 31 passes defended and 11 forced fumbles the past four seasons and knows how to tackle.

22. Malcolm Jenkins, Saints (^): Started 15 games in his second season in place of the injured Darren Sharper and made a smooth transition from cornerback with 64 total tackles, a sack, two interceptions, a forced fumble and 12 passes defended.

23. Jim Leonhard, Jets (>): Leonhard is a critical key to Rex Ryan's unique pressure defense. He can blitz, set up the pressure packages, line teammates up and also has return skills. Without Leonhard, the defense didn't look the same. Not bad for a 5-foot-8, 185-pound undrafted player.

24. Brandon Meriweather, Patriots (>): Made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2010. He has had some issues off the field, but on the field finds the football with 12 interceptions and 24 passes defended the last three seasons.

25. Nate Allen, Eagles (^): Was thrown into the fire right away as a rookie in the tough NFC East, but three interceptions, two sacks and 48 total tackles was a solid start to his career.
GROUP F

26. Pat Chung, Patriots (^): The light went on in 2010 for the second-year player from Kingston, Jamaica. Chung improved dramatically in total tackles (37 to 96), interceptions (1 to 3) and passes defended (1 to 9).

27. Thomas DeCoud, Falcons (>): DeCoud is entering his third season as a starter and is simply solid on the field. He can be schemed into defending both the rush and pass, and has a knack for forcing fumbles.

28. Bernard Pollard, Texans (>): Hard to believe the Chiefs cut ties with him two years ago, but Pollard has made the best of the move to Houston. The Texans' secondary has come under fire, but in two seasons Pollard has 162 solo tackles, five forced fumbles, four sacks, four interceptions and 23 passes defended.

29. Kerry Rhodes, Cardinals (>): He was the quick replacement in Arizona when Rolle went to the Giants. Rhodes seemed to be in the doghouse for the Jets and was released, but delivered in the desert. A rangy free safety-type who compliments Wilson, Rhodes averaged 43.5 yards per return on four interceptions.

30. Quintin Mikell, Eagles (>): Mikell doesn't believe he will be back in Philly, but he will find a new home quickly. He had a career year in 2010, and his 47 starts over the past three seasons is just what a number of teams are looking for.
Keep an eye on

A number of safeties bring something special to the game every Sunday. Bob Sanders (Chargers) has a chance to return to form after injuries, while Tyvon Branch (Raiders), Dashon Goldson (49ers), Donte Whitner (Bills), Reggie Nelson (Jaguars), Michael Huff (Raiders) and Danieal Manning (Bears) round out the list.

ChiefsandO'sfan
06-24-2011, 01:09 PM
earl thomas above berry what a joke

Brock
06-24-2011, 01:11 PM
I like Earl Thomas, but that's ridiculous.

Just Passin' By
06-24-2011, 01:11 PM
Pat seems to have lost his mind

Pants
06-24-2011, 01:14 PM
Pat seems to have lost his mind

This is actually par for the course for him.

DMAC
06-24-2011, 01:26 PM
So happy to have Uric Burry Uber Badass

JASONSAUTO
06-24-2011, 01:27 PM
why would what pete carroll say make a difference?

Pants
06-24-2011, 01:27 PM
So happy to have Uric Burry Uber Badass

I just wish he was selected to the Pro Bowl like the higher ranked Earl Thomas. Oh well, maybe next year.

Deberg_1990
06-24-2011, 01:33 PM
"28. Bernard Pollard, Texans (>): Hard to believe the Chiefs cut ties with him two years ago, but Pollard has made the best of the move to Houston."

Really? Its hard to believe Pat??

-King-
06-24-2011, 01:33 PM
"28. Bernard Pollard, Texans (>): Hard to believe the Chiefs cut ties with him two years ago, but Pollard has made the best of the move to Houston."

Really? Its hard to believe Pat??

That was the funniest part.

Cave Johnson
06-24-2011, 01:35 PM
Funny, that guy we should have drafted in the 2nd last year didn't make the list.

ChiefsandO'sfan
06-24-2011, 01:40 PM
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Where is thomas?

HotRoute
06-24-2011, 01:43 PM
Nate Allen is way too low, that guy has a ton of potential

Mr. Laz
06-24-2011, 01:51 PM
Funny, that guy we should have drafted in the 2nd last year didn't make the list.
um, this guy?
25. Nate Allen, Eagles (^): Was thrown into the fire right away as a rookie in the tough NFC East, but three interceptions, two sacks and 48 total tackles was a solid start to his career.

DMAC
06-24-2011, 01:53 PM
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Where is thomas?

My favorite current Chief by far.

I like when he was just staring at the dancing Ravens like, "Look at these dumbfucks".

Watching him tackle is textbook beauty.

cdirty
06-24-2011, 01:54 PM
God damn i cant wait to watch Berry play this year.

Hurry up. Get this lockout shit done.

Bump
06-24-2011, 01:57 PM
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Where is thomas?

I just got goosebumps and wood at the same motherfuckin time

BigMeatballDave
06-24-2011, 02:09 PM
LMAO at Kirwin and his remarks on Pollard. Pat should actually watch Pollard play sometime instead of just looking at stats. Dumbass.

FD
06-24-2011, 02:16 PM
New York Times blog just came out with a list, too, a better one:

Top 10 Safeties in N.F.L.


By ANDY BENOIT
Friendly Disclaimer: The following list is influenced largely -– but not strictly -– by film study of all 32 teams from the 2010 season. Stats weren’t acknowledged, but players with poor numbers generally don’t make top 10 lists anyway. Vague enough for you? Criteria for top 10 lists tend to be. That’s why most of you will have no trouble finding some disagreement with what you’re about to read.

(Last year’s ranking of safeties in parentheses.)

10. O.J. Atogwe, Redskins (NR)

Solid role player, but not a big-time creator.

9. Roman Harper, Saints (7)

Stupendous in the box but not so much in space. Save for the wild-card disaster in Seattle, that’s been just fine in New Orleans’s scheme.

8. Jim Leonhard, Jets (NR)

A Swiss Army Knife in Rex Ryan’s pocket.

7. Malcolm Jenkins, Saints (NR)

Superb natural talent who can cover the slot man-to-man and make rangy plays from centerfield. If he can learn to harness his aggressive instincts, he’ll be elite.

6. Eric Berry, Chiefs (not in league)

Physical young whiz who eats up a lot of ground in a hurry. The writing on the wall is in all caps: FUTURE SUPERSTAR.

5. Nick Collins, Packers (5)

Classic rangy free safety. Understands angles and route combinations.

4. Antoine Bethea, Colts (6)

About as flashy as a Tuesday afternoon in Lubbock, Tex., but there’s something to be said for calendar-like consistency. Indy’s secondary has survived injuries over the years because its centerfielder does everything well.

3. Antrel Rolle, Giants (8)

Played the role of Charles Woodson for the Giants last season. All-around versatility is a huge asset.

2. Ed Reed, Ravens (2)

Nothing new to report here.

1. Troy Polamalu, Steelers (1)

A future first ballot Hall of Famer. Great as he is, just for fun as an aside, let’s ponder this question: What would his reputation be if he didn’t have long hair?

On the cusp:

Kenny Phillips, Giants; Brian Dawkins, Broncos; Michael Griffin, Titans

Dropped from list:

Darren Sharper, Saints (3)

Brian Dawkins, Broncos (4)

Brandon Meriweather, Patriots (9)

Adrian Wilson, Cardinals (10)

Sharper and Dawkins are long in the tooth. Meriweather, for some reason, stopped listening to his coaches early last year (he rebounded down the stretch). Wilson’s severe limitations in coverage make him a de facto linebacker.

Youngster who could burst onto next year’s list:

Earl Thomas, Seahawks

Took advantage of a few playmaking opportunities as a first-round rookie last season. Quick closing speed compensates for his underwhelming girth.

Andy Benoit is the founder of NFLTouchdown.com and covers the N.F.L. for CBSSports.com. He can be reached at andy.benoit@nfltouchdown.com.

http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/24/top-10-safeties-in-n-f-l/

HotRoute
06-24-2011, 02:20 PM
LMAO at Kirwin and his remarks on Pollard. Pat should actually watch Pollard play sometime instead of just looking at stats. Dumbass.

or just looked at where the texans pass defense ranked. that pretty much said it all

the Talking Can
06-24-2011, 02:21 PM
Thomas over Berry



hilarious

KCUnited
06-24-2011, 02:27 PM
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Where is thomas?

I'd of have came twice if it weren't for Todd's hair.

alpha_omega
06-24-2011, 02:28 PM
28. Bernard Pollard, Texans (>): Hard to believe the Chiefs cut ties with him two years ago,

Wha? Why is that hard to believe?

Rudy lost the toss
06-24-2011, 02:33 PM
um, this guy?

Taylor Mays

Sofa King
06-24-2011, 02:34 PM
Can we go ahead and lock this thread, and ban subsequent articles from Pat?

SPATCH
06-24-2011, 02:50 PM
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5f/Greek_statue_discus_thrower_2_century_aC.jpg/220px-Greek_statue_discus_thrower_2_century_aC.jpg

Mr. Laz
06-24-2011, 05:26 PM
Taylor Mays
oh ... forgot about 'that' guy. Did he ever even manage to hold onto a starting job? LMAO

i wanted Nate Allen


I would still trade McCluster for Nate Allen in a second

Pasta Giant Meatball
06-24-2011, 05:33 PM
oh ... forgot about 'that' guy. Did he ever even manage to hold onto a starting job? LMAO

i wanted Nate Allen


I would still trade McCluster for Nate Allen in a second

I remember when Mays was going to deliver kill shots as the Niners raped the Chiefs and ended careers at Arrowhead ROFL Gold Men are Coming!!!

BigRock
06-24-2011, 10:06 PM
Kirwan's entire series has been horrible. It's like he doesn't even watch half the league.

beer bacon
06-24-2011, 10:08 PM
Berry had 92 tackles. You were only off 20 Pat :drool:

The Bad Guy
06-24-2011, 10:19 PM
Pat Kirwin will always, and I mean always, lick the mushroom head of Pete Carroll every chance he gets. Earl Thomas didn't wow anyone. Yeah, he piled up decent INT numbers playing in an awful secondary.

Big deal.

The Bad Guy
06-24-2011, 10:20 PM
The NY Times list is shit too. Antrell Rolle is awful. He gets some fumble recoveries and all of a sudden people think he's a playmaker.

He's not. He's shit.

Discuss Thrower
06-24-2011, 10:38 PM
Am I just too much of a water carrier for Kendrick Lewis to take umbrage from him not to be on Kirwan's honorable mention list? Seems to me the KC Defense didn't look the same when he was in street clothes.

Easy 6
06-24-2011, 10:45 PM
LMAO at Kirwin and his remarks on Pollard. Pat should actually watch Pollard play sometime instead of just looking at stats. Dumbass.

Stat keepers dont keep track of Juked Offa Feet (JOF) stats, and only recently started counting KBO's (Kill Shot Bounceoffs).

BP's gettin robbed.

AustinChief
06-24-2011, 10:53 PM
Pat Kirwin will always, and I mean always, lick the mushroom head of Pete Carroll every chance he gets. Earl Thomas didn't wow anyone. Yeah, he piled up decent INT numbers playing in an awful secondary.

Big deal.

Come on, that is not true at all. I agree that Thomas is over ranked on the list but he wowed a ton of people, myself included. He is a damn good safety.

milkman
06-25-2011, 08:35 AM
Come on, that is not true at all. I agree that Thomas is over ranked on the list but he wowed a ton of people, myself included. He is a damn good safety.

I sense a little bias.

But you're right, he is a damn good saftey, and should only get better.

If he and Berry were flip-flopped on this list, I'd be okay with that.

Which is really a shocking development, since we established long ago that Kirwan is drooling moron.

The Bad Guy
06-25-2011, 08:48 AM
Come on, that is not true at all. I agree that Thomas is over ranked on the list but he wowed a ton of people, myself included. He is a damn good safety.

What did he do that was so spectacular? Interceptions were nice, but he's not one of the 5 best safeties in the NFL. He's not even close.

milkman
06-25-2011, 09:03 AM
What did he do that was so spectacular? Interceptions were nice, but he's not one of the 5 best safeties in the NFL. He's not even close.

I think you are dismissing him too easily.

He's not yet one of the five best safeties in the league, but he has great instinct for the bal, and while unspectacular in run support, he's solid and maintains his responsibility.

Over the next 10 years, he and Berry will likely be viewed as the elite players at their positions.

the Talking Can
06-25-2011, 09:33 AM
Thomas is a good player, but he's limited compared to Berry.

Berry is going to be a star in the backfield and in run support, Thomas is never going to be the force around the line of scrimmage that Berry already is.

Okie_Apparition
06-25-2011, 09:35 AM
Group B is for Berry :crowdcheers:
& maybe Bethea, this is Kirwin