In the 2009 NFL postseason, we once again witnessed some great defenses at work. Each one of them seemed to have some very similar qualities which separated those true No. 1-type defenses from the middle-of-the-pack-type defenses.
Not only do great defenses sport a devastating pass rush, which can come from different places; they also have a ball-hawking safety who can make the opponent pay for the mistakes caused by that pass rush.
Ed Reed and Troy Poulamalu are the best examples of such safeties in today’s league. Reed had nine interceptions in 2008 and is always a threat to go the other way when he picks the ball off. Polamalu had seven interceptions in 2008 and is given more freedom to roam than any other player in the league.
Some even consider these two the faces of their respective defenses, despite them being accompanied by great pass rushers. Seemingly every play, Reed and Polamalu take it the other way when the opposing quarterback makes a mistake. In Baltimore and Pittsburgh, sacks are less common than Reed and Polamalu interceptions.
The New York Giants already sport a devastating pass rush with the likes of Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. In Superbowl XLII, everyone saw what that line could do to even the greatest offense of all time. The Giants also have a young safety, Kenny Phillips, who can truly develop into a star in this league. But they lack that presence in the defensive backfield to make Osi and Tuck’s efforts pay off double.
Conveniently enough, a man that can provide that presence is set to hit the free agent market: Oshiomogho Atogwe. This guy has proven to be one of the league’s best ball-hawks on a defense with little or no pass rush in recent years. In 2007, he had eight interceptions, and in 2009 he had five interceptions and six forced fumbles. All this while the Rams aren’t exactly known for defense.
Constantly around the football, Atogwe is entering the prime of his career and could pair up with Phillips to help form a devastating defense in New York for years to come.
Price is a potential snag in New York's acquisition of Atogwe, however. In recent years, many teams have thrown insane amounts of money at defensive backs in an effort to ensure some stability in their secondary.
Regardless, Giants GM Jerry Reese should take heed of the success of the No. 1 defense in 2008 and make a push to bring OJ to NY.