While football pundits tend to refer to the middle linebacker as the “quarterback of the defense,” no defensive position group sees the quarterback-like criticism from fans like the cornerbacks do.
As soon as an offense gets their passing game going, everyone wants to jump on the corners, wondering what could possibly be going wrong with the coverage.
Sometimes, the criticism isn’t warranted and is delivered by not-so-knowledgeable fans. But other times, this heavy criticism points to just how important having formidable cornerbacks is.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the cornerback groups of the NFC East.
Fans love to hate the Cowboys secondary. And oh have they given us reason to do so over the last few seasons.
There is reason to believe things are looking up for this group, however.
Brandon Carr, who has been much maligned for being overpaid, took a pay-cut of sorts this offseason after what I would call his best season as a Cowboy in 2015. No, he isn’t the shutdown corner that many had hoped for when he signed his blockbuster deal, but he is a solid player who can and will contribute.
Morris Claiborne is sticking around for at least one more season in Dallas. Similar to Carr, Claiborne had his best year as a Cowboy last season, and will be looking to build on that for 2016.
The biggest reason for the optimism around this group is the return of certified-beast Orlando Scandrick. While he missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL, Scandrick is undoubtedly the best cornerback on the roster, and was sorely missed last season.
My eye is also on sixth round pick Anthony Brown out of Purdue. I loved the tape I was able to watch on him and expect him to see a ton of time throughout this season.
The Eagles defense was a disaster a year ago. A disaster which seemed to correlate perfectly with the demise of big time free agent cornerback Byron Maxwell.
Maxwell disappointed Philadelphia with his play, and was traded to Miami this offseason.
Now, the Eagles cornerbacks are surrounded by questions due to youth and lack of familiarity with the team. Regardless of these problems, I do think the Eagles cornerback group will be improved in 2016.
Eric Rowe and Nolan Carroll return to Philadelphia, and I expect them to make nice strides under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
The Eagles also added former Buffalo Bills corner Leodis McKelvin, who is slated to be the team’s number one cornerback.
The Giants approach to free agency was to spend, spend, and then spend some more.
This excessive spending yielded the Giants former Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins. While we all disagree with the years and dollar amount which will be coming Jenkins’ way, he is a solid corner and an upgrade over their 2015 group.
New York invested in another cornerback in the first round of this years draft, selecting Ohio State Buckeyes corner Eli Apple. Similar to Jenkins, most “football people” agree that the Giants spent too much by drafting Apple 10th overall, but I do expect him to be a solid professional corner.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returns, and will more than likely be slated as the number two cornerback week 1 against the Cowboys.
Though the Giants added two good cornerbacks this offseason, no team made the absolute splash at the position like the Washington Redskins did.
The NFL world erupted when Washington decided to make former Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman the highest paid corner in all of football.
Norman automatically improves this group and this defense as a whole, but the Redskins weren’t done there.
They then decided to draft Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Fuller, who many thought would have been taken in the early second round, fell to the third mostly due to injury concerns. But if he can remain healthy, he will carve out a nice career for himself in the league.
Veteran Deangelo Hall also returns for 2016, and Bashaud Breeland looks to continue his improvement in his third NFL season.
Similar to the linebacker groups, this one is tough to call. Each team has their own reasonable claim to the throne, and I also don’t see any of these groups as too elite to deny.
I like what Dallas and Philadelphia have to offer, but I still have too many questions about individual players in each group to call them the “best,” even in this division.
Washington made the biggest addition during the offseason, but Hall and Breeland aren’t exactly studs. So while they are strong at the top, their next two-to-three corners are average at best.
That leaves the New York Giants.
No, I don’t agree with the money they shelled out for Janoris Jenkins, and I don’t love the value of selecting Eli Apple at 10th overall. While they may not live up to their hype or contracts, they will both be solid additions and formidable corners.
Then you throw in Rodgers-Cromartie, and the New York Giants have the best cornerback group in the NFC East.