Cornerback Tandems: Rating the NFL's Best, Part 2 of 2

Matt StephensCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2008

Al Harris is half of one of the best cornerback tandems in the league.

See here for Part 1 of the Article


No. 2: Champ Bailey and Dre Bly, DEN 

Champ Bailey possesses the best combination of skill, instinct, and knowledge for a cornerback in the game and is the closest thing to a true shutdown corner we have today.  

He will blanket the other team’s top receiver and will often take him completely out of the game. 

He is excellent in both bump-and-run coverage, as well as zone schemes. Bailey has always shown great quickness and technique, combined with excellent speed.  

With his talent and ball skills, Bailey could easily be a wide receiver and has been used in set offenses from time to time.  

He is very active in run support, and plays the run well. The biggest knocks on Bailey have been that he is eager to gamble, and will lose occasionally, like he did last year against Brett Favre for two 79-yard touchdowns.  

He is also not a big hitter, and once the receiver has the ball, rarely causes fumbles. 

Being paired with Bailey, Dre Bly had the first opportunity to be a No. 2 corner in a defense after being the top corner in Detroit and St. Louis.  

Bly maybe undersized at 5-foot-10, but he is a real playmaker. Seemingly in spite of his size, he is very confident and loves to challenge the bigger receivers.  

He gets good position on his receivers and plays tough, but he sometimes has trouble against the bigger receivers that he challenges, as they push off for separation.  

Another tremendous athlete, Bly doesn't waste much motion, and has very fluid hips, turning on a dime. He too will gamble, and lose more than he should because he has concentration lapses. 

He has a rare combination of quickness to cover the slot and top-end speed to play on the perimeter.  

As a contrast to Bailey, he isn’t very physical and isn't much help in run support. His tackling can actually be a liability and he struggles to shed blocks while seeming a little indifferent to the play once it is out of the air.    


No. 1: Charles Woodson and Al Harris, GB

The baby of the pairing at age 31, Charles Woodson has been a premier man-to-man cover cornerback in the NFL for about nine years, first with the Oakland Raiders and now with the Green Bay Packers.

While age has caught up with Woodson. He no longer has the same speed that the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner showed, but he more than compensates for any slowdown with great instincts and awareness. He uses these skills to anticipate the receiver's route and breaks on the ball.

Woodson continues to be a smart football player who combines that intelligence with a physical style and a love for the game that shows in his energetic play. 

The teamwork between Woodson and Al Harris is evident to each other when Woodson is quick to credit Harris' shutdown abilities for the playmaking opportunities that are coming his way with the Packers.

Like Asomugha, Harris is one of the few bump-and-run specialists remaining in the game, and he can be extremely physical at the line of scrimmage.

A tough, smart veteran, Harris regularly shadows the opposing team's top receiver and holds him in check. This role has led Harris to be a meticulous student in the film room to prepare. He is very quick to pick up on small signals in a receiver’s game that hint at what is about to come.  

At age 33, speed is also a concern for Harris. Woodson and Harris face their biggest problems when faced with burner wideouts, and they resort to their bump-and-run to slow them down.


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