NFCN Barroom Pro Bowl Picks: Defensive Backs

NFCN Barroom Pro Bowl Picks: Defensive Backs

(Third in a series) Voting for the NFL Pro Bowl has come to an end with official rosters set to be announced on Tuesday, December 20 on an NFL Network Pro Bowl Special. The game itself will be played on Sunday, January 29, 2017 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The flawed nature of the selection process and lack of competitiveness during the game itself has dulled the Pro Bowl’s appeal, but the recognition of talent is a practice that will never go out of style. Over the next few days, we will reveal the NFC North division players who we believe are the most deserving of an all-expense paid trip down to sunny Florida. You can find our defensive linemen here… the linebackers here… and now we present the defensive backs:  

NFCN Barroom Pro Bowl Picks: CORNERBACKS

Darius Slay Jr. (DET), Xavier Rhodes (MIN), Terence Newman (MIN)

Credit: NFL Game Pass

While the quartet of defensive ends we highlighted earlier is unequivocally an outstanding collection of defensive talent, the NFC North’s list of Pro Bowl candidates at cornerback is without equal. Detroit’s Darius Slay Jr. contributed (what I believe) will go down as the biggest play in contemporary Lions history when he picked off Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford during the closing minutes of a season-altering Thanksgiving Day matchup.

Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota’s ultimate return for trading Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for their first-round pick, has been downright impenetrable at times this year. He has allowed just two touchdowns all season while holding opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating that even Blake Bortles finds unacceptable.

The elderly fella playing across from him, 59-year-old 38-year-old cornerback Terence Newman, has been as good if not better than his partner in coverage. Newman, who had already completed puberty and was receiving Division I scholarship offers on the day Rhodes was born, has not faced No. 1 receivers on the same week-to-week basis as his teammate, but he has been far more consistent both in terms of remaining healthy and in coverage while playing clean, referee friendly man coverage.Simply, Newman

Simply, Rhodes could learn a thing or 19 from Newman on how to avoid pass interference and illegal contact penalties, as the Florida State product is nailed by the zebras seemingly once per game.

Slay, Rhodes and Newman represent a trio of pure excellence at the cornerback position this season, but Vikings nickel man Captain Munnerlyn is right there with them despite being overlooked by essentially everyone other than his head coach (myself included). Munnerlyn, who has built a career off slot coverage, is arguably the very best in professional football at his niche role — a job that is unfairly curtailed due to the lack of prominent slot receivers.Playing in a contract year, the feisty former seventh-rounder has earned every bit of a new contract from the Vikings (or another team), as he proves on a weekly basis that coverage without

Playing in a contract year, the feisty former seventh-rounder has earned every bit of a new contract from the Vikings (or another team), as he proves on a weekly basis setting up in man coverage without the benefit of the sideline is an obstacle he can and will overcome consistently over the course of 60 minutes.

Honorable Mention: Captain Munnerlyn (MIN)

NFCN Barroom Pro Bowl Picks: SAFETIES

Harrison Smith (MIN), Morgan Burnett (GB), Glover Quin Jr. (DET)

Credit: NFL Game Pass

Harrison Smith may ultimately end his 2016 campaign without an interception or a forced fumble due to a combination of an untimely Everson Griffen penalty and a nasty ankle injury, but he definitively remains the best safety in the North division if not the NFL altogether. His absence quite literally changes the Vikings’ defensive game plan, as he is capable of excelling in zone coverage, man coverage, bracket coverage, run defense, outside linebacker and even as a pass-rusher.

Carson Palmer found out first hand what a Dirty Harry sneak attack feels like during his Cardinals’ Week 11 matchup with the Vikings, as the Vikings do-it-all lit up the veteran signal-caller during crunch time to help end a Minnesota losing skid longer than it took Noah to collect a pair of every animal on Earth and load them onto his boat.

Smith is joined by a versatile group that includes fellow do-it-all defensive back Morgan Burnett, coverage specialist Glover Quin Jr. and 2017 breakout candidate guarantee Adrian Amos. Burnett, who has likely accomplished the most from a statistical standpoint this season, has been a juggernaut in Green Bay this season. His line of 77 combined tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery is noticeably similar Smith’s 2015 season which saw him recognized as a first-team All-Pro.

Quin and Amos have produced similar seasons playing primarily zone coverage roles, but Quin has been a difference-maker and turnover production agency for a Detroit team that, while certainly deserving of a division championship, has made a living during the fourth quarter. It’s difficult to stand out beyond a high interception total as a zone coverage safety, but Quin has managed to make timely play after timely play this season to thrust the Motor City Kitties to the brink of an NFC North championship.

Aside from the quartet of defensive ends and cornerbacks, this is easily the most dominant positional group the North has to offer this season, as Packers second-year man Ha Ha Clinton-Dix could have easily found himself on this list were it not for playing in the same division as arguably the best all-around safety in professional football in Smith, Burnett’s definitive playmaking talent and versatile skill set, Quin’s pure dominance in zone coverage and Amos’ flashes of next-level talent.

Honorable Mention: Adrian Amos (CHI)

 

Did we get it right? Let us know on Twitter @NFCNBarroom or via the comment section below!

Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and film clips are courtesy of NFL Game Pass.

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NFCN Barroom Pro Bowl Picks – Defensive Linemen

NFCN Barroom Pro Bowl Picks: Linebackers

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BJ Reidell

BJ Reidell

Robert "BJ" Reidell IV is a St. Paul, Minn. native currently living in beautiful Bismarck, N.D. He began writing about the Minnesota Vikings and NFC North division shortly after graduating from Marquette University in 2014 with the goal of turning his favorite hobby into a career. In addition to contributing to NFCN Barroom, he is a full-time Sports Reporter for the Bismarck Tribune, an NFL Analyst at Vikings Territory, Co-host/Producer of About the Labor: A Minnesota Vikings Podcast and a Fred Biletnikoff Award voter. You can find him waiting in line at Chipotle, enjoying a cold soda at Plums Bar & Grill or on Twitter @RobertReidell.



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