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 player or unit on "Ike's Island," where he breaks down 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 ...
Mike Zimmer's defense has been on the cusp of doing big things the last few seasons. But this year, Zimmer's blueprint has resulted in his best D with the Vikings.
The bend-but-don't-break unit has been remarkable the last month, holding opponents to an average of 17.3 points per game since Minnesota's Week 9 bye. The Vikings have stars at every level of the defense, with DE Everson Griffen, CB Xavier Rhodes and S Harrison Smith being among the best at their respective positions. But the main reason this unit has been so dominant is its front four (Griffin, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson). With the Vikings being able to get pressure by rushing just four, they're able to keep an extra guy in coverage, forcing the opposing quarterback to throw into small windows.
Despite how productive Minnesota's secondary has been, some of the individual contributors would be exposed without that ferocious front. In my opinion, Minnesota boasts the best front four in the league, particularly feeding off Griffen, who's having a more impressive season statistically than Von Miller in 2015. Griffen has more sacks in 11 games this year (12) than Miller had in 16 games in 2015 (11.0).
Per NFL Media Research, the 2017 Vikings' defense compares favorably to the 2015 Broncos' unit in terms of scoring defense (17 points per game vs. 18.5), pass defense (211.4 yards per game vs. 199.6), third-down defense (27.2 percent vs. 35.2), red-zone defense (38.7 percent vs. 59.5) and big plays allowed (3.6 per game vs. 4.6, with a "big play" equaling a run of 10-plus yards or a pass of 20-plus yards). As we all know, the Broncos put on a clinic in the 2015 postseason and shut down league MVP Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. With the similarities of that Broncos unit and this year's Vikings, can Zimmer's defense lead Minnesota to its first-ever Lombardi Trophy?
Week 14 cornerback rankings: My top 10
No reason to move him from the top after last week's performance against Sammy Watkins, with Peterson allowing the receiver to snag just one catch for 13 yards vs. him, according to Next Gen Stats. It's looking like he'll be an All-Pro cornerback for the third time.
Johnson gave up his first touchdown of the season in coverage to none other than future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. He's been a big part of why the Rams are winning this season. Not to mention, every corner on this list has allowed a TD in coverage. So, I'm keeping him at No. 2.
Norman didn't shadow Dez Bryant -- as expected -- but he shut down the Dallas receiver when facing him. Bryant, who had 55 receiving yards and a touchdown against all other Washington defenders, was held to one reception for 6 yards vs. Norman. Norman's been consistent this season, and I'd like to see him travel against the league's best receivers. It'll be interesting to see if the Redskins ask Norman to shadow a red-hot Keenan Allen. Now that he's healthy, Allen is a spitting image of my colleague Reggie Wayne in terms of smooth route running.
Last weekend's Rhodes vs. Julio Jones matchup was a big one, and Rhodes came out on top. He covered Jones, who also made some crucial drops, on four of his six targets and only allowed one reception for 13 yards. Rhodes played well in press coverage and forced Matt Ryan to look to other options for most of the game. Against Carolina, I expect Rhodes to follow Devin Funchess. Minnesota's CB1 had better get ready to defend back-shoulder fades and rebound the jump ball, because Cam Newton throws the ball to where Funchess can use his height.
Harris is a bright spot on a Broncos team that is quickly imploding. He's still bringing it every week, and that didn't change against the Dolphins, as he held Jarvis Landry in check and picked off Jay Cutler for his second INT of the season. This week against the Jets, Harris can't sleep on receiver Robby Anderson, who's enjoying a breakout season and making a name for himself by catching the ball in traffic.
Playing behind a dynamic pass rush, Hayward's been stellar for the Chargers' secondary. Last week, he faced a rejuvenated Josh Gordon and allowed 76 yards on seven targets in coverage -- but, most importantly, kept him out of the end zone. I think he continues to roll this week against Kirk Cousins, picking up his fifth INT of the season and fourth in as many weeks.
I love the way the rookie is playing. He understands the ebb and flow of a player's first season in the NFL, but it's not deteriorating his mindset. After a big performance against the Patriots last week, which included picking off Tom Brady, he's going to have to watch out for the deep ball vs. Indy's T.Y. Hilton.
WEEK 14 CORNERBACK DUOS: MY TOP THREE
These two continue to pave the way for the Jaguars' defense and face MVP candidate Russell Wilson this weekend. We've all witnessed just how long Wilson can extend plays with his legs, so Bouye and Ramsey must plaster the receivers. The game's outcome will depend on just how well they can do that.
*Next up: [vs. Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.](http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2017121005/2017/REG14/Seahawks@Jaguars)* </content:power-ranking>
What a fun matchup this is about to be -- there's a lot on the line in what will look like a playoff game. Johnson and Webster must trust the Rams' pass rush and not get caught looking in the backfield. Tackling will also be a major factor in this contest for both sides.
*Next up: [vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.](http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2017121011/2017/REG14/Eagles@Rams)* </content:power-ranking>
With the Ravens losing Jimmy Smith for the season, the Chargers now hold the No. 3 spot. The defense has been instrumental in the team's recent surge. The Bolts have a league-best 19 takeaways since Week 5, with this tandem contributing six of those. Hayward and Williams' high level of play is crucial entering the final stretch, as the Chargers sit in a three-way tie atop the AFC West.
*Next up: [vs. Washington Redskins, 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday.](http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2017121010/2017/REG14/Redskins@Chargers)* </content:power-ranking>