After an offseason full of trades, free-agent relocations and retirement announcements, key pieces left Seattle's "Legion of Boom" and Denver's "No Fly Zone." The Legion of Boom's Richard Sherman now resides in San Francisco, Kam Chancellorbelieves he's played his final game and Earl Thomas is holding out. Meanwhile, the Broncos' No Fly Zone is now without Aqib Talib, who reunited with Wade Phillips in Los Angeles.
Long story short, the honor of the league's top secondary is up for grabs heading into 2018. So, which team boasts the best defensive backfield?
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I have to go with the team that has the best cornerback tandem in the league. Jacksonville's Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye allowed the lowest passer rating when targeted in 2017 of any duo in the league, and it feels like both guys will only get better. This secondary also reaps the benefits of playing behind a monster defensive line that features Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and Malik Jackson. The pressure applied up front allows the DBs to jump routes and stay aggressive.
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It's real close between the Ravens and Vikings. Baltimore's Eric Weddle is one of the top safeties in the game, while veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith was in the midst of a career year before getting hurt in the second half of last season. If Smith can return to that level in Year 8, the Ravens should keep most passing attacks in check.
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Brian Baldinger: Jacksonville's group is just so well-rounded -- and deep
The Jaguars have great depth on the third level of the defense, with Ramsey and Bouye at cornerback and Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church at safety. Gipson is a smart, durable, pure free safety, while Church is a physical presence inside. I really like rookie safety Ronnie Harrison out of Alabama, as well. He's a big hitter and has a real chance to see time on the field. Doug Marrone could also find a solid nickel corner in free-agent acquisition D.J. Hayden.
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Mike Zimmer has the NFL's best defense right now. Harrison Smith is the top safety in the league, in my opinion. Xavier Rhodes shuts down top wideouts by making physical plays. Trae Waynes needs to display more consistency, but the 2015 first-rounder has steadily improved. Mackensie Alexander is embracing his role as the team's nickel corner, while first-round draft pick Mike Hughes and veteran Terence Newman add serious depth to this unit. The Vikings' defensive line is athletic and applies a ton of pressure. Plus, that SKOL crowd is a huge benefit.