The NFL has become a passing league. No question. The days of “ground and pound” and “defense wins championships” is now behind us. Without a talented quarterback with a good receiving core, it is nearly impossible to be competitive in the NFL.
Due to the growth of the passing offense, top defenses have to rely on being able to make the quarterback’s job difficult. The best and easiest way of doing this is taking away the quarterbacks best receiver and forcing him to beat you in other ways. But, there are only a few cornerbacks that are talented enough to do this. One of those guys is a healthy Aqib Talib. And if the Patriots want a top-teir defense, they need to resign this guy.
Before Talib suffered his hip injury in week 6, he was easily the Patriots MVP. Through the first six weeks of the season, New England held opponents to an average of just 16 points per game. Talib was a big reason for this. He began his hot streak with two interceptions against New York in week two, when the Patriots held them to just 10 points. Then in the following week, held his guy to just 34 yards catching yards and an interception. Then, in the three weeks after, he held Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Jimmy Graham to a combined 6 catches for 62 yard.
From weeks three through six, he took on four top-10 talent receivers and completely shut them down. When healthy, he could be the best cornerback in the league (take that Richard Sherman!).
These guys are so hard to come by. Normally, these receivers dominate when left in single coverage against a corner—Talib cherishes these match-ups. And when you can rely on a guy to shut down the opposing team’s best target, it allows your safeties and linebackers to shift the focus on stopping the run or other players. A talent like Talib can take an average defense, and make it a great one.
Some people have questioned Talib’s attitude, believing it inhibits his ability to be a good teammate, role model or professional. But all signs show that he left that in Tampa when he was traded to New England last year. In fact, a lot of the players in the secondary said that they Talib has become a great role model.
Logan Ryan, speaking to WEEI mentions, “[Talib] has meant a lot. Watching him each and every day, the way he practices, he’s a tremendous competitor, even in practice. He doesn’t like to lose in anything. He goes first in every drill. And to see how he works, you can definitely tell how much fun he has.”
Talib himself has noticed this change since he has been in New England. “It’s totally different here,” Talib said. “It’s big games after big games. It’s Monday nights after Sunday nights, playoffs. Tom Brady is walking around here. There are countless people and media in the locker room. This is the NFL right here.”
Talib has become a good citizen and teammate since joining New England, and in his year and a quarter here, there is no reason to think that this will not change.
People have also looked at Talib’s health and found it a concern. He has missed at least one week every year he has been in the NFL. But, because of his upside, the Patriots should take the risk. When Talib is healthy, the Patriots easily will have a top-tier, Super Bowl caliber defense next year.