The NFL’s prototypical defensive backs for each secondary position heading into 2019 - Mark Chichester
SINGLE-HIGH SAFETY: EARL THOMAS IV
A position made great by the likes of Ed Reed, Ronnie Lott and Brian Dawkins, the single-high safety is an easy role to play in theory, yet few possess all the physical gifts it takes to play it well. A dominant single-high safety possesses the range, a high football IQ and next-level instincts, and he will have the ability to cover the field in an instant.
It has indeed been those next-level instincts and that ability in coverage that has separated Thomas from the pack over recent seasons. Since joining the Seahawks with the 14th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, Earl Thomas’ work in Seattle has put him among the very best to ever play the position. His coverage grade of 92.7 is the fifth-best mark among qualifying safeties in that nine-year span, while his 64 combined pass breakups and interceptions and his 80 total coverage stops rank second and fourth among safeties among that same group, respectively.
The NFL All-Over-30 Team - Andy Benoit
LG Rodger Saffold, Titans—30 years, 11 months
RG Kyle Long, Bears—30 years, five months
Backup: Marshal Yanda, Ravens—34 years, eight months
Jimmy Smith, Ravens—30 years, 11 months
Aqib Talib, Rams—33 years, five months
Robert Alford, Cardinals—30 years, eight months
Richard Sherman, 49ers—31 years, four months
Brandon Carr, Ravens—33 years, two months
Another reason we’ll play zone: we have primarily off-coverage corners. Sherman is the only true press-coverage artist, and his press experience is in Cover 3 zone more than man-to-man. Smith can play press, but he can also operate with a cushion.
Earl Thomas, Ravens—30 years, two months
Harrison Smith, Vikings—30 years, five months
Malcolm Jenkins, Eagles—31 years, seven months
“David Culley, for us to get him is a coup,” Harbaugh said. “It’s something that we’ve been trying to get done here for a number of years, and we finally pulled it off. That’s the kind of coach he is.
“The thing I would emphasize about Coach Culley, more than anything, is what an amazing teacher and communicator he is. He’s probably the best - I would say he’s the best straight-up teacher, communicator, that I’ve seen coaching football one-on-one, not just because he coaches it so well, but because he’s so relentless and he coaches the important things. You can be relentless, but if you’re coaching things that don’t matter, then that’s just a lot of hot air. He’s coaching the things that matter, and you see the guys getting better every day within his position group.”
Culley was brought in not only to coach wide receivers, but to coordinate the passing game and to assist Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman with the weekly game-plan.
Champs of change: Ravens embrace youth and rebuke skepticism - Jamison Hensley
The Ravens could have as many as seven new starters, including three rookies (receiver Marquise Brown, outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson and guard Ben Powers) and a first-year starter (either Kenny Young or Chris Board at weak-side linebacker).
Perhaps this is why the FPI gives Baltimore a 29.9 percent chance to capture the AFC North and a 2.1 percent chance to win the Super Bowl.
“[We] kind of just want to block out that noise,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “There’s been a lot of talk going on, but that’s really for the media to take hold on that. We know, in this building, it’s all about us, and we’re working on getting better each and every week -- whether it’s a workout, whether it’s being in meetings, anything of that sort. We’re fully confident, we’re loaded, and we expect to be the best in the NFL.”