NFL Predictions 2012: 5 Defenders That Will Get Burnt Badly
Defenders in the NFL today can't seem to catch a break.
More personal fouls have inevitably resulted from all the rule changes to favor the offense, the sometimes-chippy illegal contact penalties and, of course, the emphasis on player safety.
The league landscape is definitely shifting, and the emphasis on the passing game is leaving the smallest guys on the field the most susceptible. Cornerbacks are getting badly burnt at an unprecedented rate at the hands of pro football's elite aerial assaults.
So now, defensive backs have become as valuable a commodity as ever, and many teams have loaded up, stocking their squads with stellar secondaries heading into 2012.
Here are five players who aren't part of such defensive backfields and will get burned this season.
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Acquired this offseason by the Oakland Raiders, Bartell missed nearly all of 2011 after suffering a fractured neck in Week 1.
The 2005 second-round pick out of Howard had a relatively productive career as a St. Louis Ram during a rough stretch for the franchise.
While Bartell was a solid player, he didn't face the greatest competition in the NFC West. Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals was the only great receiver in the division when Bartell was in St. Louis.
Think about it: Who have the Seattle Seahawks had on the outside lately? How about the San Francisco 49ers?
All three of the aforementioned opponents have also endured inconsistency at quarterback most of the time.
Let's just say the AFC West is a step up in quarterback-receiver quality from Bartell's previous division. To highlight the three teams:
Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning; Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker
Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Cassel; Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin
San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers; Robert Meachem, Malcom Floyd
Bartell is the presumptive starter for the Raiders, according to AFC West lead blogger Christopher Hansen, after Stanford Routt signed with the rival Chiefs in free agency.
It will definitely be interesting to see how Bartell bounces back from injury, and it probably explains why his contract lasts just one year.
Considering the Raiders had the 27th-ranked pass defense last year and haven't improved much on that side of the ball, Bartell will likely be in over his head this season as a No. 1 corner.
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Didn't it seem like Williams was a classic case of getting a contract extension, and then totally dropping off?
I don't know what's in players' heads, and I'm not about to assert that Williams slacked off because he got his big payday.
With that said, the promising young corner had a bad year in 2011, along with the whole Green Bay Packers defense. The unit was a big reason the 15-1 team didn't get a shot at a Super Bowl repeat.
As high-powered as the Packer offense was, the defense gave up an NFL-record 299.8 passing yards per game.
To be fair, their cause wasn't helped by the absence of Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, who missed 14 games with a neck injury and is no longer with the team.
Considering Charles Woodson's age, a move to safety might be in his future. It's something the 15-year veteran isn't opposed to, according to ESPN's NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert.
If that winds up the case, Williams must play like the No. 1 corner he's paid to be. After all, Woodson did say the cornerback position needed to be solidified before he considered playing safety.
While Williams must get good practice against his own team's breadth of wide receiver talent, he'd better be ready for what's coming his way this year.
He will be asked to match up with Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson and Percy Harvin with a more experienced quarterback in the division this year.
That terrifying trio contains some of the most dangerous players in the league after the catch.
To say that doesn't bode well for Williams is an understatement, if 2011 is any indication. ProFootballFocus.com tabbed Williams as the eighth-worst tackling corner in the NFL.
Williams better get used to sticking his nose in and delivering a hit from time to time. Otherwise, he'll have another disappointing season.
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Beyond Jerraud Powers, the Indianapolis Colts might be the thinnest team in the league at corner.
Vaughn was picked up in a trade where they parted with fullback Chris Gronkowski.
Due to the lack of attractive options in the secondary, Vaughn projects as the likely No. 2 corner, although he might be battling with recently acquired Justin King. Yikes.
The moves to pick up Vaughn and King seem desperate for the Colts, especially since Vaughn had his season cut short by a broken fibula in 2011.
There isn't much of a track record from which to judge Vaughn, but he did make three starts in place of the Denver Broncos' Champ Bailey last season.
Vaughn has proven himself as a viable return threat early in his career, averaging over 37 yards per kickoff on nine attempts.
As far as the defensive phase goes, though, Vaughn will be the weak link in the Colts' secondary consisting of Powers and Pro Bowl free safety Antoine Bethea.
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In a neat statistic by Football Outsiders, Jammer ranked in the bottom 10 among CBs in success rate.
Jammer's 40 percent success rate means that, 40 percent of the time, he failed to hold receivers to "45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent of needed yards on second down, or 100 percent of needed yards on third down."
The numbers seem to indicate Jammer wasn't very effective on any down last season. He also had zero interceptions and is 33 years old entering his 11th NFL season.
Luckily, the additions of DE/LB Melvin Ingram and DT Kendall Reyes in the draft should help bail out the San Diego Chargers secondary more often this season.
However, it is rather likely that Jammer will be the team's top corner, meaning he'll be lining up against Demaryius Thomas, Dwayne Bowe and one of the young, speedy Oakland Raiders receivers for two games each.
This makes the second No. 1 corner I'm picking on in the AFC West, but none of those four teams should lack offensive firepower this season.
I expect all those quarterbacks to have great years and expose lackluster cornerback play.
To be fair, it would be nice to see Jammer bounce back in 2012. According to San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Kevin Acee, Jammer's play was greatly effected by his going through a divorce last season.
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According to ProFootballFocus.com, Wright had pass coverage rating of minus-8.2 for the Lions in 2011.
This was worse than talented rookie Patrick Peterson's minus-6.6, which was 174th out of 197 cornerbacks.
People will argue that Wright had four interceptions last year, made a bunch of tackles for the Lions and had an overall exceptional season.
I don't buy it. The secondary was very lackluster this past season, and the unit ranked 22nd against the pass despite a terrifying defensive front four.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to pay him with a huge five-year contract worth $37.5 million, according to bucsnation.com. That's incredible, because Wright has been pretty awful his entire career with the exception of one season in Cleveland.
Yes, Jerricho Cotchery—herniated disk/pulled groin in the middle of the route and all—managed to beat Wright on a crucial third down with the Browns' season hanging in the balance.
Wright may be an upgrade over the Bucs' Ronde Barber in age, but whether he is as a player is highly questionable.
Look for Wright to get toasted more than most—again—in 2012.