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 ...
Health has been the issue for the Packers' secondary this season, with their top two cornerbacks, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, each missing several games earlier in the year. Both of these guys are second-year pros who have experienced growing pains early in their careers. In Weeks 1-5, the Packers' secondary allowed a 58.2 completion percentage, 14 yards per catch and a 94.8 passer rating when in coverage. In the last five games -- all wins -- the Packers have allowed a slightly higher completion percentage (61.1) but far fewer yards per catch (11.6) and a lower passer rating (77.2) mainly due to the healthy return of many defensive players, including pass rusher Clay Matthews. The biggest difference from the beginning of the year: The secondary has picked off seven more passes in the last five weeks than in the first five. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who's playing the best of all Green Bay's defensive backs, accounts for three of those interceptions. Being able to create turnovers at this time of year is crucial if the Packers want to keep winning.
But let's slow down for a second. Sure, the defense has had some great moments of late, but Chicago's Matt Barkley and Minnesota's Sam Bradford, who aren't ranked in the top half among the league's QBs, threw for a combined 744 yards in the last two weeks. That's concerning, considering the Packers must stop Matthew Stafford -- a legitimate MVP candidate -- with the NFC North title on the line.
To win the division, the Packers' secondary has to play honest, because Stafford is going to use every weapon at his disposal -- receivers Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin and Marvin Jones and tight end Eric Ebron. He's not looking for one specific guy, like he did in the past, when Megatron was with the Lions. Tackling will be key against Tate and Boldin, because being physical isn't a factor against these receivers. They have the toughness of running backs and aren't afraid to do the dirty work across the middle. Jones is a deep-play receiver. The Packers must be willing to give up back-shoulder fades, but they can't let Jones get behind them, because if Stafford's accuracy is on-point, it could go Detroit's way more often than not.
Week 17 cornerback rankings: My top 10
December means one thing to Richard Sherman: It's go time. And his play in the last several weeks has certainly shown he's ready for the postseason. Without Earl Thomas, Sherman is one of the main leaders of the Seahawks' defense, and this team is going to need him. That being said, Kam Chancellor is being exposed in coverage, and I'd like to see him improve in that area prior to the playoffs. Back to Sherman: He's not going to get tested much in Week 17 against the 49ers. This game will be a good opportunity for Seattle to get back on track heading into January.
I like that Peters has begun to pick and choose when to jump a route or fall back. He understands what offensive coordinators are going to do to exploit his weaknesses, and he's not getting into much trouble of late in coverage. Against the Broncos in prime time, Peters allowed one catch for 6 yards on four targets and allowed a 39.6 passer rating to Trevor Siemian. Peters is the leader of this defense, which is firing on all cylinders heading into the final week of the regular season.
On Sunday, Philip Rivers is going to be aggressive with his receivers, but I expect Peters to win against anybody. Peters and the secondary have received help from the pass rush, so it's likely he'll sit on a lot of routes again this week. With a division title on the line, you can bet Peters will ball out.
There was good and bad for Chris Harris Jr. on Sunday. The good: He handled his business and only gave up two receptions for 10 yards on five targets. The bad: Harris and the No Fly Zone missed a number of tackles. Coverage-wise, Harris is one of the best in the league, but he must execute his tackles.
Jones slides slightly down the list because of his mediocre game in Houston, where he gave up four receptions for 48 yards on six targets. But the kicker is, he got penalized at the wrong time, costing his team field position or first downs. For the most part, Jones is a smart and savvy player, but he got caught being in the wrong place this time around.
Joseph continues to lead a secondary that's a featured part of the NFL's best overall defense. He's not the flashiest corner -- most likely one of the most underrated CBs -- but he gets the job done. And he did it again Saturday night vs. Cincinnati, allowing two receptions for 26 yards on six targets. Joseph has been one of the most consistent cornerbacks in the last five years, and he's going to take advantage of a Titans offense that's without its starting QB. I'm guessing two picks in Nashville.
Peterson struggled -- by his standards -- against Doug Baldwin in Arizona's 34-31 win over Seattle. He allowed a total of 70 yards on six catches -- 51 yards to Baldwin. He might have a game or two like this every season, because he can be undisciplined with his eyes. Peterson was caught peeking into the backfield on a number of crossing routes -- something you can't do against a quarterback as smart as Russell Wilson. When Peterson keeps his eyes clean, he's one of the best corners in the league. When he doesn't, he's average. That's how talented he is. He had an average game in Week 16, but I expect him to finish strong on New Year's Day against a young, inconsistent Rams team.
Norman opened his Christmas presents one day early, picking off Matt Barkley twice last Saturday. After struggling several weeks ago, Norman has righted the ship, and that's what I want from him. More importantly, this is the play his team wants and needs from him if the Redskins are to make the playoffs.
Standing in the way is Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York Giants. This is the third career meeting between Norman and OBJ, who has caught 10 of 15 targets when Norman is in coverage. In Week 3, 107 of Beckham's 121 receiving yards came against Norman. I'm fine with the yards as long as Norman's not giving up touchdowns -- and he's got to cut down on penalties. With a postseason berth on the line, there is no room for mistakes in this matchup.
Talib was the least-targeted cornerback in Week 16, giving up just 8 yards on the only pass Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith tossed his direction. He's garnered respect around the league, and it's too bad we won't see the No Fly Zone in the postseason again. Like I said above, the Broncos tackled poorly in their most recent loss, but I fully expect them to rebound against the Raiders.
Jenkins has been out several weeks with a back injury, but he's staying in my list because there's no one playing up to his level. The Giants' defense hasn't fallen off without him, but they sure miss him. He's Big Blue's go-to cornerback, and they can't wait to get him back on the field -- like the rest of us.
Don't worry. I've been hearing all the responses about not having the league's INTs leader in my top 10. With the Vikings DBs struggling of late -- and apparently not listening to their coach -- Hayward has slipped right into my list. Though his Chargers handed the Browns their first win of the season, Hayward played well after giving up just one catch for 11 yards on three targets. His success has come from being a great off-coverage corner.