There's a reason the
Chargers used six or more defensive backs on 87.6 percent of their snaps in the playoffs last season. This secondary is loaded, with guys like All-Pro safety
Adrian Phillips and
Casey Hayward. Phillips, a safety who took 63.2 percent of his snaps at inside linebacker last season, is one of the most underrated defensive players. Coordinator Gus Bradley's D is stacked with talent, so expect this unit to remain a top-three secondary.
Bears, Jags and
Saints might look better on paper, but I'm picking a pack of pass defenders who -- in the last real action we witnessed --
held Sean McVay's high-flying Rams to three points on the game's biggest stage. New England wins the prize IRL (in real life).
Stephon Gilmore is a star, and
J.C. Jackson is ready to make the leap.
And twins? ... Jason and
Devin McCourty continue to roll, while
Patrick Chung is a loyal foot soldier. Biggest names? No way, but the untouched coaching of Bill Belichick puts this less-flashy group over the edge. Got issues? Come talk to me in February.
It has to be the
Chicago Bears. This unit features first-team All-Pros
Eddie Jackson at safety and
Kyle Fuller at cornerback. More important is the fact that the
Bears' secondary doesn't have a weak link. This group has a great balance of chemistry, speed and knowledge. These attributes, combined with an opportunistic approach, are what keep offensive coordinators up at night. The
Bears, who also boast a Khalil Mack-led pass rush, were really good under Vic Fangio -- and they'll be even better with Chuck Pagano as coordinator. The former
Colts head coach's defense will feature different looks and blitz packages, allowing the secondary to feast on any mistake.
Minnesota has regularly had one of the NFL's best defenses under Mike Zimmer. Last season, the
Vikings' D ranked in the top five in many major categories, including fourth in total defense and third against the pass. A stellar pass rush and the unit's discipline are big reasons for success, but the secondary has also been a mainstay.
Xavier Rhodes has been a lockdown corner who frees up the rest of the unit, while
Mackensie Alexander and
Anthony Harris continue to steadily improve.
Mike Hughes was having a solid rookie campaign before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 6. But the biggest reason why the
Vikings' secondary is one of the most-feared units is because of safety
Harrison Smith. The four-time Pro Bowler is so versatile that he can play man or zone coverage, drop in coverage, come down in the box, make tackles for loss or sack the quarterback. Smith makes life difficult for quarterbacks because he can do it all.
There are a lot of good secondaries heading into 2019, but I have to go with the
Los Angeles Rams. The
Rams' defense has a pair of lockdown cornerbacks in
Marcus Peters and
Aqib Talib, with
Nickell Robey-Coleman manning the slot. This trio's ability to cover receivers without help gives safeties
John Johnson and
Eric Weddle more freedom to make big plays in Wade Phillips' scheme. Weddle is a huge addition to this unit, as a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. Behind a pass rush that features back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year
Aaron Donald, expect the
Rams' secondary to make waves early and often.
With all due respect to the
Super Bowl champions' underrated collection of defensive backs, the
Ravens' secondary might just be the
deepest position group in the entire league. Ranked third in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric for pass defense last season, Baltimore added one of the few difference makers available this past offseason, pairing potential
Hall of Fame free safety
Earl Thomas with physical strong safety
Tony Jefferson. The cornerback corps is even deeper, with
at least four starting-caliber players in
Brandon Carr and nickelback
Tavon Young. Should an injury arise, the team can turn to versatile veteran
Anthony Levine as well as recent draft picks such as
DeShon Elliott and
Chuck Clark. After losing
more than half of their sacks, hits and hurries to free agency, the
Ravens will need their loaded secondary to make even more big plays to compensate for an unproven pass rush in 2019.