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. In this series, Taylor 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.
Featured on Ike's Island this week ...
It's no wonder that Norman is being featured in the first week of the 2016 regular season. He was the most talked-about cornerback in the offseason, after the Carolina Panthers rescinded their non-exclusive franchise tag on the All-Pro corner in April. Just two days later, Norman became the NFL's highest-paid cornerback (getting a five-year, $75 million contract) with the Washington Redskins. Is he worth the money? Based on his numbers the last two seasons (104 tackles, 30 passes defensed, six INTs -- two returned for scores -- four forced fumbles, and he allowed just three TDs when targeted in 2015), yes.
Norman is going to get tested right off the bat as the Redskins host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. The fifth-year corner will be tasked with covering arguably the best receiver in the league heading into the 2016 season: Antonio Brown, who hauled in 136 catches for 1,834 receiving yards and 10 TDs 2015. Make no mistake, Brown will get the ball, but what Norman can do is limit Brown's yards after the catch. With most receivers, corners can make a tackle on the second or third step after the catch, but that's not the case with Brown. He has to be tackled immediately, or you'll get hit by the dust off his cleats. Norman is fully capable of staying with Brown on routes, but he must stay patient at the line and keep Brown in front of him.
If Norman isn't patient and doesn't tackle, it's going to be a long day for the first-year Redskin. It could be the difference between Brown putting up eight receptions for 90 yards and eight catches for 171 yards.
Week 1 cornerback rankings: My top 10
Revis is my top-ranked guy because he's still playing at a high level entering his 10th season. He is one of the best tackling corners in the game, consistently follows the best receivers on every down and has a high football IQ. If there is a ball coming his way, there's a good chance it will end up in his hands.
Last season, Revis ranked second among all qualified NFL cornerbacks in passer rating allowed (47.2) and gave up just two touchdowns while snagging four INTs. In your 10th season, though, a player is "old" by football standards. On top of being 31 years old, he had wrist surgery in the offseason. Revis' ability will be measured Sunday against a top-tier wideout (A.J. Green), and we'll be able to see if Revis Island still has it right out of the gate.
Patrick Peterson is the most versatile cornerback in the NFL. His size and athletic ability allow him to do nearly everything on the field -- as he is an All-Pro punt returner and two-time All-Pro corner. With blazing speed (4.34-second 40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine), Peterson can take a false step and still make it up to make a play on the ball. He's become a shutdown corner for the Cardinals, ranking first in passer rating against (45.6) and giving up two touchdowns when he was targeted last year.
Sherman gave me everything I was looking for in 2015. For the first time in his career, he traveled to cover the opponent's best receiver and did well. I think he played Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown the best out of any corner, as the Steeler stud managed just six catches for 51 yards.
Sherman's press is better than any other right now. When he's up on the line of scrimmage, he is great at disrupting timing between the quarterback and receiver. His lengthy stature (6-3) challenges receivers to beat him over the top. He doesn't have great speed, but he's very deceptive and is great at making plays on the ball. But on top of all of this, Sherman is the best tackling corner in the league, period.
He's probably the most underrated corner in the league, but after hotly debating his abilities this offseason, he's going to be on everyone's radar. Unlike the three corners above him, Harris prefers to play off the line of scrimmage to watch the route develop, and he's one of the best at it.
See featured section above.
Every blue moon, there is a rookie corner who plays like a veteran. In 2015, Peters was targeted 134 times (at least 30 more than any other player on this list), and only 46 percent of those targets resulted in completions. There is the saying, "See ball, get ball," and Peters has the confidence to actually do that. It's a rare quality, because the player has to have the confidence that if he messes up, it's his fault. He is gambling and putting all the chips on himself, and so far, it's been a good bet for this Chiefs star. Peters, who has great anticipation, jumped a lot of routes last year and tied for the league lead with eight INTs -- one of the big reasons he was named the 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
This weekend, Peters will face a rising star in the AFC West in Keenan Allen. There are going to be a lot of jump-ball situations -- for Peters to have success, he can't let Allen come down with the ball.
Talib's gritty attitude and competitiveness is the most important part of his game. It translates to his play and, most of the time, he wins. He is one of the most physical corners in the league and also challenges his opponents mentally. I expect Talib, who gave up three TDs last season, to continue to set the tone for the Broncos' defense in 2016.
In Thursday's Super Bowl 50 rematch, Talib will check a now-healthy Kelvin Benjamin, who will get a lot of attention from quarterback Cam Newton. Benjamin's height (6-5) makes him a key target for jump balls. How this matchup plays out in the red zone will play a major factor in the game's end result.
Verrett is one of my favorite up-and-comers. He does a lot of things well on the field and plays similarly to Marcus Peters. Right now, I see Verrett as Peters' little brother, but I could see him making the leap in his third NFL season.
I know, I know: Mathieu is listed as a safety. But as I've said before, Mathieu played 68 percent of his snaps in 2015 as a slot corner, 24 percent at strong safety and eight percent at free safety, according to Pro Football Focus. In doing so, Honey Badger had five INTs and defended 17 passes before his season-ending knee injury in December.
I believe Honey Badger is the biggest playmaker of this entire group. He is asked to do so many things for the Cardinals' dynamic defense, and he has the skill set and passion to execute and produce. If he continues to play in the slot, look for him to move up this list.