Due to the evolution of football from a predominantly run-first, smash-mouth game to a pass-first finesse game, the defensive secondary has gone from being a unit of minimal importance to one of great importance.
Most teams in the NFL still are learning how to adapt to the wide-open offenses we are seeing in the 21st century. Almost no team can boast of having Pro Bowl caliber players at each of the four starting secondary spots.
And yet, the New Orleans Saints, yes that's right, I said the New Orleans Saints, can boast of such a thing.
Speaking of cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter and safeties Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins, you are speaking of a quadrant of really good defensive talent. Under Gregg Williams, the unit has gone from being one of simply talent to the strongest part of the entire unit.
Every football fan remembers Tracy Porter's epic interception return of Peyton Manning in Super Bowl 44 a few seasons ago. It is the play which Porter's entire career will be remembered by, no matter what he does for the rest of it.
The fourth-year pro out of Indiana is a solid 5'11" and 186 lbs. But it's his ability to transition out of breaks and make plays on the ball—the skill he ultimately used for that memorable pick-six—which makes him so good.
As for Greer, he's the same size as Porter plus four lbs. He's quicker and faster, which enables to stay with just about every receiver in the league. His ball skills are second to only Charles Woodson in the entire league. Frankly, Greer has been the second most impressive corner in the entire league in 2011.
What team has the best four defensive secondary starters?
As for the safeties, most fans see the 6.5 sacks that Roman Harper has produced and assume he's playing his best football. The truth is that he's playing really well, but his overall play has been better in recent seasons. Nonetheless, Harper gives the Saints essentially a fourth linebacker with elite linebacker coverage skills.
Harper's never going to be confused with a corner as far as covering receivers man-to-man, but his adaptability and flexibility cause offenses to become confused about the defensive scheme on most snaps.
Then there's Jenkins, whose ability to blitz effectively, play man-to-man, play the run and play deep-zone coverage, make him the ultimate safety. He has a chance to be the most sound overall safety in all of football in the next couple seasons.
That might be the most exciting part of this football team—these guys are all still young. Greer is the oldest member of this group and he's only 29. This group has a really good chance to grow together and stay together for awhile.
Porter is up for a new contract after this season, and in my opinion is a must re-sign for Mickey Loomis.
But even better than the play of the unit is the kind of people these guys are. Tracy Porter has a daughter and is always talking about her on Twitter.
Jabari Greer and Roman Harper are both very involved in the New Orleans community. As is Malcolm Jenkins, who already has his own foundation.
You can find out more about the foundation by going to http://www.themalcolmjenkinsfoundation.org/. The foundation is designed to provide mentorship and opportunities for underprivileged youth in struggling neighborhoods.
That's one of the best things about these Saints in general. They play hard and they work hard in the community. That's just one reason the Saints are so beloved in New Orleans.