Ike's Island  

 

Week 11 cornerback ranks: Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye dominate

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Ike Taylor is no stranger to being on an island. The former Steelers cornerback helped Pittsburgh win two Super Bowls during his 12-year career. For the second straight year, Taylor's weekly series will feature one pertinent cornerback on "Ike's Island," where he breaks down the player's on-field play and significance heading into the coming week. In addition, he lists his updated top-10 cornerback rankings and top-three CB duos.

Featured on Ike's Island this week ...

Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, New England Patriots

Next up: vs. Oakland Raiders, 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday in Mexico City.

It's no secret that the Patriots' defense has tried to iron out the kinks since the Week 1 loss to the Chiefs, and they've certainly improved over time. But the biggest area of concern with the defense I have right now is the secondary. The Patriots rank dead last in pass defense, allowing 287 yards per game and 17 touchdowns this season. Some of this is due to injuries up front and a lack of pass rush, but the back end of the defense hasn't shown consistency through nine games.

The Patriots signed Stephon Gilmore in the offseason to better the unit. Although Gilmore, who's fought through several injuries, and Malcolm Butler have played well at times, they've struggled to keep receivers out of the end zone. Last week against an average -- at best -- Broncos offense, the duo allowed eight receptions on 16 targets for 132 yards, with Gilmore giving up a touchdown to Demaryius Thomas. Gilmore covered Thomas well on the play but the receiver just made a better play. Butler's having a down year and got worked by the Broncos, specifically Emmanuel Sanders.

At some point in a cornerback's career, you will have a year where you just can't do anything right. (I know from experience.) It's one of those seasons where it doesn't matter if you're in good position -- the receiver ends up with the ball and makes a play. It just so happens that both starting Patriots corners are going through that slump. The coaches have put the players in good position to make plays, but they haven't been able to finish. Communication in the secondary has been part of it, and a lot of that falls on safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. All four DBs haven't played consistently well, but most of the criticism is put on the cornerbacks because they are the ones on the island.

This week in Mexico City, I'm looking for this group to communicate on every single snap. And when these guys are in proper position, they have to make plays. It's all about finishing and doing what will allow Tom Brady and the offense to get back on the field. Then, it's off to the races.

Week 11 cornerback rankings: My top 10

EDITOR'S NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from Ike's Week 10 rankings.

RANK

1

Patrick Peterson, Cardinals

2

Next up: at Houston Texans, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

It's a bummer that Richard Sherman's out for the season because he's been playing at such a high level. But Peterson is equally deserving of the No. 1 ranking. A bright spot on a mediocre squad, Peterson is a marathon cornerback. He started the season slow, but now leads the pack with seven weeks to go. According to Next Gen Stats, Peterson has allowed 15 receptions on 37 targets for 169 yards, with a 1:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, four passes defensed and a 52.6 passer rating against this season. The three-time All-Pro will see a ton of action this week when going against DeAndre Hopkins, who's been targeted 106 times this year. Peterson must be more receiver-ish than Hopkins if he wants to stay here.

RANK

2

Xavier Rhodes, Vikings

2

Next up: vs. Los Angeles Rams, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Rhodes did well against a feisty Redskins attack by only giving up two receptions on five targets for 11 yards. There's a lot on the line this week when the 7-2 Rams come to U.S. Bank Stadium. A big-bodied cornerback, Rhodes will likely line up against Sammy Watkins, who doesn't have a plethora of routes in his job description. Look for wide receiver screens along with post, comeback and go routes.

RANK

3

Jimmy Smith, Ravens

2

Next up: at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Smith is playing lights out even with the Achilles tendon injury he's played through since Week 4. This season, he has the lowest passer rating allowed (27.9) of all NFL cornerbacks. Coming off a bye, Smith missed practice Wednesday. Hopefully he's good to go Sunday, as the Ravens will need him on Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams if they want to leave Lambeau with a win.

RANK

4

Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars

2

Next up: at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

I love the way this guy plays, and he showed up again in Indy, allowing two catches on six targets for 26 yards. The second-year pro sure doesn't look like one.

RANK

5

A.J. Bouye, Jaguars

2

Next up: at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Add another pick to Bouye's count, thanks to Philip Rivers. Bouye had great concentration on the play because he had Travis Benjamin draped all over him. I have to give props to Bouye's instincts, as he tried for six. Damn-near made it, too. A big win for the Jags on the road, and this week's opponent shouldn't give them fits.

RANK

6

Josh Norman, Redskins

5

Next up: at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Norman took the words right out of my mouth when he said the Redskins' defense "played like trash" against the Vikings. Case Keenum tossed four touchdown passes, each to a different receiver. In coverage, Norman gave up five receptions on five targets for 82 yards and a touchdown -- the reason for his decline in this week's rankings. It won't get easier, either, with Drew Brees up next.

RANK

7

Trumaine Johnson, Rams

1

Next up: at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Johnson and Co. kept Houston's DeAndre Hopkins out of the end zone in last week's win -- the first time "Nuk" hasn't scored in a game since Week 3. The star receiver had three catches on seven targets for 56 yards against Johnson in coverage. I'd say the corner accomplished what he needed to.

RANK

8

Chris Harris Jr., Broncos

1

Next up: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Harris didn't look like himself several weeks ago, but seems to be back on track. Against Tom Brady, Harris allowed three catches on six targets for 18 yards. But with Denver's playoff hopes slipping, Harris better hope his solid play rubs off on some of his teammates.

RANK

9

Marshon Lattimore, Saints

1

Next up: vs. Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Lattimore, who's allowed a 42.3 passer-rating against this season, was stout against the Bills (allowing one catch for 9 yards), but faces a more diverse receiving group Sunday. He'll see action against Josh Doctson, Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder, but the scouting report says beware of Maurice Harris, who made a great one-handed touchdown grab last week. In this contest, Lattimore's gotta make a big play and not give one up.

RANK

10

Bradley Roby, Broncos

NR

Next up: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Roby hasn't given up a touchdown in coverage since Week 3. His value is apparent, as the Broncos incorporate a ton of nickel packages. He can play inside or outside the numbers and could start on any team.

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Aqib Talib, Broncos; Jason McCourty, Browns; Adam Jones, Bengals; Tre'Davious White, Bills; Darius Slay, Lions; Marcus Peters, Chiefs.

WEEK 11 CORNERBACK DUOS: MY TOP THREE

RANK

1

JAGUARS

Players: A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.

After these two cornerbacks held Philip Rivers to a 17.7 passer rating on throws in their direction, Ramsey proclaimed that they'll be playing in Minnesota come February. The defense -- ranked No. 1 in the league -- might be going, but the offense is staying in Duval (no disrespect to Leonard Fournette). It wouldn't be the first time, however, that a defense carried a team to a Lombardi. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. This week, the Jags play the winless Browns in a game where Bouye and Ramsey must focus heavily on tackling.

Next up: at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

RANK

2

RAMS

1

Players: Trumaine Johnson and Kayvon Webster.

The Rams are playing at a high level, as Johnson has held receivers out of the end zone in coverage all season. Webster's also playing with confidence and has great route recognition, but needs to work on bump-and-run coverage. This week's a big one for the 7-2 Rams, as Minnesota's Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen -- who boast the second-most receiving yards by a duo (1,293) this season, per NFL Research -- stand in their way. If I were one of the Rams' corners, I'd insist on practicing against Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp (not the scout team) because they play similarly to this week's opponents.

Next up: at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

RANK

3

RAVENS

NR

Players: Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr.

This might be the biggest cornerback tandem in the league when it comes to size, with Smith at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, and Carr standing 6-foot, 210. Smith is playing at an extremely high level (see above), and Carr's certainly doing his part (seven passes defensed and three picks) for the Ravens' third-ranked pass defense. This week against the Packers, the action will come to them -- especially with Green Bay's injury woes in the backfield -- when lining up against Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams.

Next up: at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Cornerback tandems that just missed the cut: Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, Broncos; Tre'Davious White and E.J. Gaines, Bills.

Follow Ike Taylor on Twitter @Ike_SwagginU.

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