The league is going to the spread. We are made aware of this on a daily basis, and the first game of the season proved that the theme is alive and well. It is no longer about balancing the ground game and the passing attack. Runs seem to be used for little more than short first down conversions, especially on teams with elite pivots and wideouts.
We have seen the value of the middle linebacker plummet in recent years. The league used to be dominated by the man in the middle. The Ray Lewis, the Brian Urlacher, even go back to the legendary Dick Butkus. The reason they were such stars was because they were making plays on running downs the majority of the time.
But you now see a guy who lead the league in tackles be made widely available on the open market, without much in the way on interest.
The result? The rise of the corner. If a team is going to try to bring an aerial attack upon the opposition, the defence must counter with an aggressive prevent, starting on the corners.
Some of the most active teams in the offseason put a premium on acquiring elite players to play out on the island. All alone these corners must try to stop some of the worlds best athletes from catching the ball. The price is high for the top corners, but it must be done.
Revis Island and Cromartie can be described as the first modern era shutdown duo, and while the rest of the Jets team is something to mock, you always know that it will be hard to throw on them.
Tonight we saw the world champion G-Men go up against a new look on the corners in Dallas. They traded up for Morris Claiborne and broke the bank for Brandon Carr, but if tonight was any indication, it was money well spent. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks were almost invisible as Eli struggled to find his primary targets.
Claiborne and Carr stepped in and showed us why the Cowboys might be a team to be feared this year due in large part to their ability to shut down the entire vertical passing game.
The St. Louis Rams are a team undergoing wholesale changes from the top down. They are trying to build a winner around Sam Bradford and what is left of Steven Jackson. They too went the way of the corner this offseason, and while we have not yet seen the results, hopes are high.
They too drafted one and signed one. Janoris Jenkins was drafted in the second round this year – falling to the 39th pick due more to his off-field issues than his on field skills. Then they broke out the check book for Cortland Finnegan. The bruising corner known for throwing down on the field with Andre Johnson, but he too can blanket a wideout.
While Bradford still hardly has anyone to throw to, don't be surprised if they manage do win seven or eight games thanks in large part to the money on the corner.
The Colts went out and traded a high second round pick to get Vontae Davis from the Fins. They are still one away, but it is start. The Bills spent their first-round pick on Stephon Gilmore, who paired with any combination of Leodis McKelvin, Aaron Williams and Terrence McGee will do their best to shut down the divisional beast that is the Pats.
The Eagles rid themselves of Asante Samuel so they could officially feature the duo of Nmamdi and DRC. Some are saying that Philly has a chance to go deep this year, and the corners will surely help them.
Linebackers will continue to lose their value, especially those in the middle. While they may be calling the plays, few of them do much more than get beat my freaky tight ends when dropping back in the passing game. This could also usher in a new era of middle backers, with more coverage skills and less pursuit ability.
Bigger, stronger and faster corners are coming along as well. When wideouts like Megatron, Brandon Marshall and the like are being slit out wide, having your corner staring at belt buckle is a recipe for disaster.
Watch Dee Milner on Alabama. Or if you were watching the Michigan-'Bama game, then you known exactly who I am referring to. Six-foot. 200-pounds. Physical, able to step up in the box, but also a fearsome defender with the coverage skills and speed necessary to fight with the big boys.
He is the future. The future of the corner.