Skip to main content

NFL's top five CB tandems: Broncos still strong, but Jags on top

The league's best cornerback tandems possess rare athleticism and great chemistry. analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor examines CB tandems heading into the 2017 season. Here are his top five:

1) A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars

A lot of people are going to disagree with me here, but it won't be the first time or the last.

Jalen Ramsey is coming off an impressive rookie campaign that landed him among my top 10 cornerbacks. In coverage, Ramsey allowed 48 catches on 90 targets for 703 yards, two TDs, two INTs and a 68.0 passer rating against. He adjusted to the learning curve of playing in the NFL and balled out in the final stretch of the 2016 season, recording 13 passes defensed and two INTs from Week 13 through Week 17 after only having one pass defensed and no picks total until that point. The defensive staff trusted and allowed Ramsey to cover the opponent's best receiver, and he obliged like a champ. We should see the same this year. His play is going to demand more attention in Year 2.

A.J. Bouye's monster year for the Texans' top-ranked defense helped him land a five-year, $67.5 million deal with the Jags. The 6-foot, 191-pound cornerback allowed a 60.6 passer rating against and racked up 16 passes defensed in his fourth NFL season. Bouye has speed, is consistently close to the receiver and puts himself in good position to make a play on the ball. I'm not saying he's going to lead the league in interceptions -- mainly because the Jags play man coverage -- but Bouye will have plenty of opportunities to come down with the ball if and when they do play zone.

2) Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. (and Bradley Roby), Denver Broncos

No. 1 on this list a year ago, the Broncos could very well have the best cornerbacks in the league. They've dominated for the last two seasons, and a lot of the success is credited to Aqib Talib's leadership and football knowledge. Because the veteran trusts his instincts and understands offenses, he continues to be a potent force even as he enters his 10th NFL season. Though Talib missed three weeks last season, he didn't give up a single touchdown in coverage and allowed a 53.3 passer rating against. Need I say more?

Chris Harris Jr. is phenomenal in coverage and has great footwork. The Broncos' best all-around cornerback, Harris is often on the island and often shutting down any receiver he faces. In 2016, Harris allowed just 34 receptions on 72 targets for 337 yards (9.9 yards per catch). If I'm a quarterback, I'm avoiding him.

Bradley Roby is the chess piece to this secondary. He can play inside or outside the numbers, but I think we'll see him in the slot this fall. Expect this trio to maintain its top-tier status.

3) Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple (and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), New York Giants

With the arrival of rookie Eli Apple, there was a slight shuffle in the lineup come the middle of last season. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie opened the 2016 campaign on the outside but moved inside to play the slot, which I didn't expect, leaving Apple to man the perimeter. DRC came through, with his versatility playing a big part in the improvement of the Giants' secondary. Apple pleasantly surprised me in Year 1. His best attribute was his short memory. I don't think people understand how important that is at the cornerback position.

Because of the dominant play of safety Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins flew somewhat under the radar until late last season. Jenkins has the best eyes of any cornerback in the league. He trusts what he sees and doesn't let the receiver beat him with the double move. This quality -- something I learned from my former coach Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh -- is so valuable in a cornerback. Your eyes can be your best friend or your worst enemy. They were Jenkins' best friend in 2016, as he allowed a 54.8 passer rating against.

4) Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward, Los Angeles Chargers

It looked like Jason Verrett was on his way to a career season (with three passes defensed and one INT in four games) before he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in October. With Verrett out, Casey Hayward emerged as a dominant cornerback in the Chargers' zone scheme. He understands combination routes and situational football, which helped him lead the league with seven INTs. You can tell he's a student of the game by the way he jumps routes regularly. I can't wait until Verrett is healthy so these two can go to work -- adding to an already-loaded AFC West in terms of secondaries.

5) Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots

Malcolm Butler doesn't get the credit he deserves. There was plenty of trade talk this offseason surrounding the restricted free agent, but it all ended in Butler signing his one-year tender from the Patriots in April. This guy made one of the biggest plays in our sport's history, and his talent is still underrated.

I'm interested to see how he pairs with Stephon Gilmore, who played well last year for another AFC East team in Buffalo. Gilmore was picked on early in 2016, but he quietly handled his business. He will fit in well in New England because of his ball-hawking skills. Expect him to pick off two to five more passes in 2017 than he did in 2016.

Cornerback tandems that just missed the cut: Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman (or Trae Waynes), Minnesota Vikings; Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Follow Ike Taylor on Twitter _@IkeSwagginU_.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content