In a conference widely known for prolific passers of the likes of Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, etc., consistent and quality cornerbacks are necessary to compete.
From Revis Island in New York, to the shutdown corner in Oakland's Nnamdi Asoghmua, the American Football Conference is chock full of teams with not only one talented corner, but two.
This slideshow ranks each of the cornerback tandems in the AFC.
The Houston Texans lost a key member of their star-driven defense when they failed to re-sign All-Pro cornerback, Dunta Robinson, who eventually signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
Honored with the 18th ranked pass-defense in the National Football League, the Texans ran a defense that featured playmakers of the likes of Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans, Mario Williams, etc.
Robinson's dismal 2009 statistics weren't a measure of his ability, but the awareness from opposing offenses of his skill. Without an interception, Robinson still managed 64 tackles, and forced a fumble.
Without Robinson, the Texans need to rely on second-year starter Glover Quin, who recorded 68 tackles, deflecting 11 passes last season.
The Texans also added the versatile Kareem Jackson, out of Alabama, who can eventually progress from s special teamer, to an agile, consistent cover corner in the National Football League.
The Steelers were ranked 16th overall in the National Football League in pass-defense for the 2009 season, mainly due to the loss of the always dominant Troy Polamalu.
While the Steelers do have a young talent in William Gay, who made 78 tackles while deflecting ten passes, along with a sack and a forced fumble, second year defensive back, Joe Burnett, out of Central Florida needs to step up.
Ike Taylor is 30 years old, and while his 62 tackles, five sacks, 13 pass deflections, and a pick was noteworthy, but we must remember that Taylor is 30, which seems to be "the end is year" time in most NFL vet's careers.
With Polamalu and Ryan Clark at safety, the corners will be tested along the sidelines, so Burnett could end up giving Taylor a run for his money.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in a make or break situation for their franchise, with rumors of relocation looming over ownerships' head. Jacksonville's strength was it's secondary until the sudden inconsistent play of safety Reggie Nelson forced the Jags to select cornerback Derek Cox in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Well, that didn't turn out to badly, as Cox made 72 tackles, snagged four picks, and deflected 11 passes...all while earning the starting role in each of the 16 games...in his rookie campaign. Not too bad.
Fellow corner Reshean Mathis has always been hyped preseason for a breakout year. Mathis has all the talent and physical ability to be a top notch corner in the National Football League, but his inconsistency leaves many in doubt.
Mathis only managed to appear in 10 games, in which he recorded 33 tackles, forcing two fumbles, making three interceptions, and batting away seven passes...Until he was injured.
If Mathis can stay healthy, look for this cornerback tandem to move up more than a few spots by midseason.
Overshadowed by superstar safety, Ed Reed, the Baltimore Ravens not only have great, but young depth at the cornerback position, crowded with Dominique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Chris Carr, and Ladarius Webb.
You may ask yourselves, why would a team with such depth at the position, be ranked so low. The answer to question is consistency. The Ravens will be shuffling and rotating the cornerback position that valuable reps will be taken from what could be a future star.
To explain this, in the 2009 season, each of the four cornerbacks posted average, but solid statistics displayed here:
Chris Carr (7th season) 44 Tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, and 1.5 sacks.
Dominique Foxworth (6th season) 53 tackles, four interceptions
Fabian Washington (6th season) 37 tackles
Ladarius Webb (2nd season) 35 tackles, one sack
Ladarius Webb is obviously the future, but the Ravens may have to trade one of their veterans for a mid round pick or another young corner, as Reed is aging also.
For the most casual of NFL fans, Peyton Manning and the potent spread offense he operates is what most tend to think of when they hear about the Indianapolis Colts. However, the Colts need more than offense to be championship contenders each year, and this comes mostly from their overlooked secondary.
Safety Bob Sanders is a Pro-Bowl caliber player—when he is healthy, which isn't often. This leaves most of the pressure on the Colts rookie Jacob Lacey, youngster Jerraud Powers, and rotational defensive back Kelvin Hayden.
Each player is young, but like Baltimore's deep secondary, they each have unique and consistent talent.
Jacob Lacey is most likely to be the No. 1 corner, as he made 85 tackles while catching an interception in his rookie campaign. His ceiling for growth is growing each practice he attends.
Jerraud Powers is very inconsistent, but can be a playmaker when you least expect it. Powers made 66 tackles, forced a fumble, snagged an interception, and deflected ten passes last season, while Kelvin Hayden made 50 tackles, deflected five passes, and caught one interception.
The Colts were ranked No. 14 overall in pass defense, but with Lacey and Powers developing, the Colts wont have to worry as much about Bob Sanders' injury when it comes to evaluating their secondary.
The San Diego Chargers will need extraordinary play from their corners this season, as nose tackle Jamaal Williams isn't returning, and former Pro-Bowler, Anntonio Cromartiie departed for the New York Jets, which means opposing offenses will be looking to exploit the 11th ranked pass defense of 2009.
Jammer only recorded 58 tackles, but he did manage to grab three interceptions and bat away 11 passes, while youngster Antoine Cason made 41 tackles, and had two interceptions.
If Cason can fill the big shoes that Cromartie left, The Chargers' cornerback ranking could rise, especially due to the paymaking ability of safety John Weddle.
This is just the first part of the complete AFC Cornerback Tandem Rankings..Keep an eye out for part two, displaying the No. 10 through No. 5 picks, and No. 4 through No. 1!
Who'd I Leave Out? let me know!