Monday, July 27, 2020

LA Rams: All-Time 3-4 Top Seasons

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
This season, 2020, will be the fourth season of the Rams new 3-4 defense, the first three under Wade Phillips and now under Brandon Staley.

From 1983-90 the Rams also Ran a 3-4 base defense under Fritz Shurmer, switching to a 4-3 in 1991 under Jeff Fisher and the club stayed with that scheme through 2016.

So, we are considering the Rams 3-4 era as being 1983-90 and 2017-19 and here are our picks for the Rams All-time team for that scheme along with the nickel/dime that both Shurmur and Phillips used as much as the base defense. We also are including explanations of why we made the picks.

In the Shurmur 3-4 the defensive line two-gapped most of the time whereas in the Phillips brand of the 3-4 they did not, it was a one-gap 3-4. Also, in the Phillips scheme the front seven flops sides (strong and weak), and in the Shurmur scheme they stayed put, playing left-right.
Aaron Donald
In the base, Jack Youngblood is the base end. In 1983 he was a single-digit end by one pro scouting firm and in 1984 he was Second-team All-NFC. In 1983 and 1984 he averaged 47 tackles and 10 sacks per season. Brockers is a run-stopping phenom who plays inside on passing downs. Though not a top rusher, he has length and does a good job pairing with Aaron Donald, but for him to step up tio the next level like a Cameron Heyward or like Calais Campbell was when he played in a 3-4 he needs to get more pressure on the quarterback.
Jack Youngblood
Donald is the obvious choice as the three-technique. His 2018 season was amazing with 20.5 sacks but in the 30 he's averaged 15 sacks, 9 stuffs, 49 tackles, and four forced fumbles since 2017.

Reggie Doss was a solid player who shaded inside the left tackle (4i) in the Shurmur scheme. In 1984 he had 66 tackles, 8 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, and 5 passes defenses. His 1983 season was almost identical, though he had 5 sacks and 7 passes deflected. Doss was good in the 3-4 base, but lacked the speed to be great in pass-rush situations and eventually would be replaced in those spots.
Alvin Wright
On the nose, Alvin Wright gets the call with his 1989 season, though he was very consistent from 1988-90. Those three seasons he averaged 61 tackles (5 for losses), 2 sacks, 4 passes deflected, and a forced fumble. Wright was a bull versus the run. He couldn't be moved. However, on the other hand in the pass rush he couldn't move. So he was clearly a one-dimensional player.

The backup nose tackle is Greg Meisner's 1984 season. Though he split time with Charles DeJurnett he had 36 tackles, seven for loss, and 3.5 sacks. Meisner was an active street fighter-type. He got by on smarts and hustle but he also could run a little bit. He was a solid player especially in late-1983 in the Dallas playoff game and in 1984 and a good rotational player for other years but we went with 1984 as his best.

The strong-side inside linebackers (MIKEs) are Alec Ogletree (2017) and Carl Ekern (1985). Ogletree has 95 tackles, 10 passes defensed a pick-six, 2 sacks and a forced fumble. Ekern had 118 tackles and 2 picks, 2 forced fumbles and one of the picks went for a touchdown. We chose 1985 over 1986 when eh was Second-team All-NFC because he was on the field more in '85 and made more plays.

The "MO" backer or weakside inside linebacker is Jim Collins and his 1984 season, though his 1985 season was equally good. He was All-Pro according to Pro Football Weekly in '84 and by Sporting News in '85. A neck injury in the 1985 Pro Bowl derailed his ascending career.

Backing him up is Cory Littleton's 2019 season. In 2018 Littleton was the "MIKE" and had a fine year, in 2019 he was moved to the "Mo" and played just as well, earning him a big paycheck with the Las Vegas Raiders. He excelled in zone coverage, could blitz, and recovered four fumbles. Being on the weakside freed him some from taking on too many guards and allowed him to run to the ball. Were it nor for Collins' great seasons (as good as any ILBers you can find) Littleton would be First-team.
Kevin Greene
At SAM or left outside linebacker is Kevin Greene and one could pick any season from 1988-90. For those three seasons, he averaged 59 tackles and 15½ sacks. He was a star for the Rams until they switched schemes and had to leave the Rams to go to the Steelers and back to a 3-4 defense. In 1991 and 1992 Greene battled and even had a good 1992 season playing more coverage than ever before, but his forte was going at the quarterback, not dropping into a zone or covering a running back.

His backup is Mel Owens who was a far better coverage backer than Greene but not near the pass rusher. From 1983-87 Owens butted heads with the good tight ends and fared well, and could get some rush. In 1985 he had nine sacks and from 1983-86 he averaged five sacks a season.
Mike Wilcher
The right linebacker, or what Wade Phillips called the Will is Mike Wilcher, who was far more than a rusher. In 1985 he did have 12.5 sacks, a career-high, and many came from the outside, but some came as the nickel/dime linebacker as well. From 1985-90 he was often the lone "linebacker" in their sub defenses, which gets complicated because some of the defensive line positions were also filled by linebackers. But in the 4-1-6 he was the "1" and could cover or rush as the fifth pressure man from a stand-up position.

Dante Fowler's 11.5 sacks and 58 tackles get him the backup spot behind Wilcher. He was more of a defensive end, rather than a complete linebacker. However, his "career-year" got him big money form the Atlanta Falcons for the 2020 season and beyond.

Right now Jalen Ramsey isn't eligible for this squad having only played about a half-season for the Rams but he has a shot to jump in after the season. Right now, though, Gary Green and Leroy Irvin are the top corners for the 3-4 era.
Gary Green
Green came to the Rams in a 1984 trade and started slow but was excellent in the Shurmur zone scheme, even though he could play man coverage as well. Irvin was a self-made player. He began as a nickel back in the early eighties (1980-82) which meant he was a safety with either Nolan Cromwell or Johnnie Johnson playing in the slot but by the mid-1980s he was an All-Pro cornerback. From 1984-87 Irvin scored six defensive touchdowns to go with his four punt return touchdowns he scored from 1981-82.

The backup corners on our mythical squad are Jerry Gray's 1989 (though any year from 1986-89 would be fine) and Marcus Peters' 2018. Peters scored two pick-6s for the Rams in 22 games for the franchise and Gray was a First-team All-Pro in 1989 and a Second-team pick from 1986-88 and a Pro bowler all four years and ALl-NFC all four years as well. Gray would play safety in sub defenses in the late-1980s, he narrowly loses out to the First-team corners.
Nolan Cromwell
Both Cromwell and Johnson were great in 1983. Both were hurt in 1984 and both rebounded well in 1985. In their prime, call it 1980-85, few, if any safety tandem had more range than this pair. They both played slot corner at times, Cromwell first, then Johnson. Cromwell would also play some nickel linebacker in certain schemes. They were smart and versatile and both were good tacklers with good ball skills. 
Lamarcus Joyner
Backing them up are John Johnson's 2018 season and Lamarcus Joyner's 2017 season (2018 would fit as well. Johnson had 119 tackles and four picks and played nickel linebacker quite a lot. Joyner could also play slot but was poor man's Honeybadger in 2017-18 for the Rams.


That's the base defense.

Now, for the nickel.

Youngblood and Greene are the edges and Aaron Donald and Jeter are the inside rushers. Jeter was listed as an end but did his best work in the nickel/dime Eagle as a defensive tackle. Youngblood, in addition to his 10.5 sacks in 1983 had 45 QB hits and knockdowns of quarterbacks and 46 hurries (and almost as many in 1984 despite missing time due to a back injury) and Donald had 70, 91, 92 or 106 total pressure depending on the source you trust.

There is a dropoff to the second unit. Longacre was fine, but no star. Fowler was solid with 11.5 sacks in 2019.
Fred Strickland
Fred Strickland, you may raise an eyebrow at but he was a defensive tackle in the Rams nickel a lot in 1988. He had multiple roles. He was the 'nosebacker' in the Eagle defense, playing over the center, but in that scheme he would "stem" or shift to linebacker to make that Eagle into the "Hawk".  That Eagle/Hawk was one version of the so-called 5-linebacker defense.
Gary Jeter
Then nickel also would use five linebackers at times as well in 1989, after Gary Jeter left the Rams in Plan B free agency. Fritz Shurmur would often employ Mike Wilcher at linebacker and use four linebackers as defensive linemen. In 1988, though, Jeter was there and he'd play defensive tackle in the Eagle/Hawk and in nickel/dime and in the latter Strickland would be in inside rush mate.

We've touched on Wilcher's MIKE role and in this case, we put him ahead of Ogletree because he was the better rusher when called upon.

In 1985 Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated named Vince Newsome his All-Pro nickelback and how he usually played was as a linebacker with Wilcher on the second level and Jerry Gray (late in the season, anyway) would play outside corner and Gary Green would play slot corner. Newsome would be a star today with his versatility, he is the forerunner in many was to the multi-position or "no-position" defenders you see today.
Vince Newsome
Newsome's 2018-19 counterpart is Marqui Christian who plays linebacker in sub defenses but also will play safety with Johnson as the linebacker or even Taylor Rapp in that nickel linebacker role.

Like the mid-1980s defense, the late-2010s defense has had a lot of versatile defensive backs who can play safety, linebacker, slot, and outside and had coordinators (Shurmur and Phillips) that employed them in may ways. We've only touched on where you might see some of these defensive backs line up but tried to give a flavor of the variety of ways players like Cromwell, Johnson, Joyner, Christian et al were used.
Nickell Robey-Coleman 
Nickell Robey-Coleman was the Rams slot for the last few years, whereas in the mid-1980s that role was filled by Gary Green (who even had a few sacks off of the slot) and before that Cromwell or Johnson and later my Mickey Sutton and others. Anthony Newman is who we put with the first unit as the 'dime' back.

Newman was a fine athlete with top speed who would play the second slot position in dime, but also could play safety, allowing our 'team' to put Johnson at a corner but that could be reversed as well putting Newman at corner with Johnson at safety. The same is true for Cromwell. All three were over 6 feet, could run, cover and tackle.

So there is the 3-4 team, composed of mid-1980s players and late 2010s players.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Jeff Nixon Has a Game for the Ages

By Jeffrey J. Miller

            The Buffalo Bills had set a dubious record during the 1970s, losing 20 straight games to the Miami Dolphins during the decade for a standard for futility (or, from the Dolphins perspective, a benchmark of dominance) against one team that will most likely never be surpassed.  But the Bills of 1980 were not only beginning a new decade, they were literally beginning anew--a team on the upswing with several new players and a winning attitude imported along with third-year coach Chuck Knox.  And what better way to kick off the new decade than against the that had completely dominated them throughout the previous one?  This was their chance to make a statement, and they did so emphatically.

            Free safety Jeff Nixon was in just his second season with the Bills but was already well aware of the streak that had haunted the team and its fans for a full ten seasons.  “The entire off-season,” he remembered, “all I heard from fans was ‘why can't you guys beat the Dolphins?’ After hearing this countless times, I made it my goal to do everything in my power to end this streak once and for all.  When the league schedule came out, I circled the date on my calendar, September 7, 1980. The home opener, again, in Buffalo.”

            No doubt several of those same fans were among the sellout-crowd of 79,598 who jammed into Rich Stadium to witness the battle.  The hometown rooters had little to cheer about until late in the first quarter, when Nixon foiled a Dolphin drive by falling on a Bruce Hardy fumble at the Miami 49. 

            “We were in Cover 3 Zone where I cover the middle and the two cornerbacks cover the deep outside zones,” Nixon explained.  “I came up and was in the right place at the right time.”
            The Richmond grad gave the fans another reason to shout midway through the second when he picked off Bob Griese at the Miami 48. 
            “We were in Cover Two,” he recalled.  “Both safeties (Steve Freeman and me) covering half the field.  The ball was overthrown, and I was able to get my hands under it before it hit the ground.” 
            Nixon returned the pick to the Miami 32, which led to a 40-yard Nick Mike-Mayer field goal that gave the Bills a 3-0 lead that stood until intermission. 

            Fans were cautiously optimistic as the teams emerged from the locker rooms--after all, Bills backers had seen this before.  Just one year earlier, their team had taken a 7-0 lead into the locker room, only to see Tom Dempsey shank a 34-yard field goal on the game's last play to send the Bills to their nineteenth straight loss to the Dolphins.  Something, they thought, was bound to happen to spoil the party. 

            It appeared those fears were realized early in the third period when Griese hit Tony Nathan with a four-yard scoring pass, lifting the Dolphins into a 7-3 lead.  But Nixon was having none of it.  Later in that same period, he stopped a Miami march by recording his third takeaway of the game when he intercepted Griese at the Buffalo 28, returning it to the 43. 
            “Interception number three was Cover One where I cover the middle of the field and everyone else is in man-to-man,” he explained.  “I came up to make the tackle, but Jimmy Cefalo bobbled the ball and I was there to make the interception.”  The quarter ended with the Dolphins still leading by four.



             The score remained unchanged as the Bills traded blows with their most bitter rival until late in the fourth quarter, when Ferguson capped a seven-play, 68-yard scoring drive with a four-yard toss to Roosevelt Leaks, giving Buffalo a 10-7 lead with 3:42 left.  The crowd was now on its feet, anxiously awaiting the return of the Miami offense and an inevitable Dolphins comeback.  The ensuing kickoff was returned to the Miami 33, but when the Dolphins took the field, it was Don Strock calling the signals in place of Griese.  Strock's first-down throw was picked off by linebacker Isiah Robertson and returned 33 yards to the Miami 11, giving the Bills a golden opportunity to put the game away.  A short pass to Frank Lewis on third-and-six placed the ball shy of a first down just outside the one-yard line.  Rather than kick the sure field goal that would have extended the lead to six points, coach Knox made an uncharacteristically bold move and went for the knockout punch, leaving the offense on the field to go for the clinching touchdown.  Seconds later, rookie running back Joe Cribbs vaulted into the end zone, sending the crowd erupted. 

            Miami got the ball back with 1:52 on the clock.  But after driving to the Buffalo 43, Strock made a desperation throw toward the Buffalo end zone.  
             “We were in Prevent Defense," said Nixon.  “All safeties and cornerbacks play deep, covering one-quarter of the field.”  Nixon played it perfectly, anticipating Strock’s aerial near the goal line and out leaping a Miami receiver to notch his fourth swipe of the day. 
             The crowd, sensing that it was witnessing the making of Buffalo sports history, erupted into hysteria.  When the game ended after two Ferguson kneel-downs, the mass of humanity stormed the field to celebrate the momentous occasion.  Overzealous fans descended upon the goalposts, eventually tearing both down and carrying a large section of one-up the stands toward Ralph Wilson's box to present to the team's owner as a souvenir.  "This is the biggest win in the history of the team," an emotional Wilson told reporters.  "Bigger than the AFL championships."


            “I intercepted three passes to help end the longest losing streak in NFL history,” Nixon recalled proudly.  “I also had a fumble recovery in the game, giving me four takeaways, which is still a Buffalo Bill's single-game record.”  It fell one sort of the NFL record of five which was set by St. Louis Cardinal Jerry Norton way back in 1961.

            For Nixon, however, the thrill of the victory and his own stellar performance was overshadowed by thoughts of his long-suffering teammates.  “For players like Joe DeLamiellure, Reggie McKenzie and Joe Ferguson, who had endured the entire ten years of defeat at the hands of the Dolphins, their emotions had to be something like the Jews experienced when they were finally allowed to go into the promised land after 40 years of wandering in the desert. Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration.”
            At the time, however, there were many Bills fans who would have agreed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Michael Bennett Hangs 'Em Up

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
Earlier today Michael Bennett announced his retirement from the NFL via Instagram. Press reports have stated that he made his decision prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and its possible impacts on the 2020 NFL season. But the disease did have an impact on his decision. According to the New Yorker's  Louisa Thomas, "But it wasn’t until Bennett was sheltering in place with his family that the decision hardened into certainty, and it wasn’t until a few days ago that he decided that he was ready to announce it. The pandemic, by requiring him to focus on the essential aspects of life, was clarifying . . . he wanted to be at home with his family. "

Bennett waxed poetic in his retirement announcement posting, "Retiring feels a little like death of self, but I’m looking forward to the rebirth—the opportunity to reimagine my purpose.

In his eleven-year career, Bennett played for five teams, including four in his final three seasons. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Seattle Seahawks but waived during the season and signed by Tampa Bay. In 2013 he returned to Seattle as a free agent and played five seasons there.

In 2018 he was traded to Philadelphia and in 2019 he was traded to the Patriots who, in turn, traded him to Dallas where, as it turns out, he finished his career.
Chart credit: PFJ
He was always listed as a defensive end, but he did a lot of his pass rush damage as a defensive tackle in nickel/dime situations, sinking to three-technique in those schemes.

He ended his career with more run stuffs (tackles for loss) than sacks, rare for such a good pass rusher. Even though his sack totals are not monstrous (he averaged 7½ from 2011-19) he always got good pressure.

According to Football Outsiders he averaged 14 quarterback hits and 29 hurries per season in that same span, which are excellent numbers. Other sources have varying numbers for hits/hurries, but FO is usually, in our view, the most consistent in scoring such things.

In addition to his relentless pressure, he was a player who could hold his own in the run defensive in base defenses and not only hold his own, he'd make impact plays, tackles for no gain or losses that would but offenses "behind the sticks" in 2nd and 11 or 12 when they wanted to be second and six.

He could hol the point of attack and set the edge or he could slip or "backdoor" the blocked and knife in for a tackle for loss. Those playes made him stand out early in his career to us.

In 2012 Pro Football Journal named him Second-team All-Pro and First-team All-NFC. In 2013 PFJ named him Second-team All-Pro as a nickel rusher (he wasn't a starter bout would play inside in sub defenses).

In 2014 Bennett was a Pro Bowl alternate and Grantland.com named him All-Pro and PFJ named him Second-team All-NFC and did so again in 2015 when Sports Illustrated's Peter King named Bennett First-team All-Pro (Bennett also made his first Pro Bowl in 2015 and was a PFWA All-NFC pick as well).

In 2016 and 2017 he was a Pro Bowler again. In all, he received post-season honors in six seasons (2012-17).  He got a Super Bowl ring with Seattle in 2013.

In 2016 Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer called Bennett, the second-best defensive lineman in the NFL behind Los Angeles' Aaron Donald. "He's J.J. Watt-like," Palmer said to ESPN. "He moves around all over the place. He's inside, he's outside. He's dominant in the run. He's dominant in the pass."

Bennett plans to say involved in social justice issues (as he has been already) and to spend time with his family. He was always a "good watch" in games and often had great post-game quotes.

Said Bennett Bennett, after getting penalized for celebrating a sack against the Los Angeles Rams, "I’m never clear on the NFL rules…Two pumps get you a baby. Three pumps get you a fine.”

Yes, it does.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Dynamic Duos: Cornerbacks (1960-present)

By John Turney
There are different ways to rank the top cornerback dues for each team in a given year but we wanted to pick the ones where both players were playing well enough to get some, perhaps, All-Pro recognition, good stats, perhaps good testimonials, and so on, not just one player who maybe had an ann-time great year and the other corner was good, but didn't really stand out.

Let's say player A was a "10" on a scale of 10 and the other was a "6", for example. The total would be a 16, right?  But what if another tandem in team history was one player as an "8" and the other was a "7", the total is 15 but both players were good whereas the first example it might be a case of one player carrying the tandem.

Keep that in mind as you read. You may disagree with our ultimate picks, but at least you'll know we did our due diligence. Also, this post got a little unwieldy, so there may be comments for some tandems and not for others. And sometimes maybe a tandem could be in moth the "single season" category or the "multiple years" category but we just made a call.

Part of that due diligence is the post-season honors, et al, mentioned above but also some team and secondary unit success as well. So, we throw all that into the blender, mix it with conversations with people pro scouts we talk to, the literature of the day (Pro Preview, Joel Buchbaum's writings, Dr. Z's writing, TJ Troup, Nick Webster, Chris Willis, and others, we just try to kick an answer out of the old grey matter.

In the end, we are not rating these as much as listing and recognizing them, though in general, we tried to list those in the chart from the top-down, meaning we think Lewis and Ross are the best of the seven-year duos.

Also, injuries factor in so some may have played for six years, but one missed time because of an injury, in that case, we still considered them a 'team' if they came back together after the injury.

Also, this is for fun and discussion, not an end-all, be-all list.

Enjoy.

Atlanta Falcons
Ken Reeves and Tom Hayes

Multiple seasons
1971-73—Ken Reaves & Tom Hayes: 32 takeaways and 3 defensive scores from 71-73
1997-99—Ronnie Bradford & Ray Buchanan
1991-92—Tim McKyer & Deion Sanders: Most talented duo, 1991 especially effective
Single-seasons
1975—Rolland Lawrence & Tom Hayes
1977—Rick Byas & Rolland Lawrence: Gritz Blitz year
2002—Ashley Ambrose & Ray Buchanan
2012—Dunta Robinson & Asante Samuel

Baltimore Ravens
Multiple seasons
2000-01—Chris McAlister & Duane Starks
Single-seasons
2004—Chris McAlister & Samari Rolle (also 2006)
2017—Brandon Carr & Jimmy Smith

Buffalo Bills

Multiple seasons
1978-83—Charles Romes & Mario Clark: Solid pair on team with a low defensive passer raring for most of their time together
1964-69—Booker Edgerson & Butch Byrd: A good AFL's CB duo
2001-03—Antoine Winfield & Nate Clements
Single-seasons
Robert James and Dwight Harrison
1974—Dwight Harrison & Robert James: Were fabulous in 1974
1993—James Williams & Nate Odoms: The best of the Bills AFC championship CB dues of early 90s
2009—Terrence McGee & Drayton Florence
2015—Ronald Darby & Stephon Gilmore
2019—Tre'Davious White & Levi Wallace

Carolina Panthers
Single-seasons
1995—Tim McKyer & Tyrone Poole
1996—Eric Davis & Tyrone Poole
2005—Chris Gamble & Ken Lucas: Combined for 13 picks
2015—Josh Norman & Charles Tillman

Chicago Bears
Whitsell and McCrae. Credit: Spokeo

Multiple seasons
1963-66—Bennie McRae & Dave Whitsell: Won a title together and solid in other years
2010-13—Tim Jennings & Charles Tillman
1976-77—Virgil Livers &  Allan Ellis
2005-06—Charles Tillman &  Nathan Vasher
Single-seasons
1967—Curt Gentry &  Bennie McRae
1985—Leslie Frazier &  Mike Richardson
2001—Walt Harris &  R.W. McQuarters
2018—Prince Amukamara & Kyle Fuller

Cincinnati Bengals
Ken Riley and Lemar Parrish

Multiple seasons
1970-77— Ken Riley & Lemar Parrish. Parrish had six seasons with post-season honors (seven if you count 1970 when he went to Pro Bowl as a returner and Riley had "honors" in 1975-76. Parrish and Riley combined for 61 interceptions and six pick-sixes in their eight seasons together. 
Single-seasons
1983—Ken Riley & Louis Breeden
2005—Tory James & Deltha O'Neal
2009—Leon Hall & Johnathan Joseph
2012, 2014—Leon Hall & Terence Newman

Cleveland Browns
Dixon and Minniifled
Multiple seasons
1984-89—Hanford Dixon & Frank Minnifield: One of the top pairs in NFL history. They combined for four First-team All-Pro seasons, two Second-team picks, and seven Pro Bowls. 
Single-seasons
1960—Bernie Parrish & Jim Shofner
1968—Erich Barnes & Ben Davis
1971—Ben Davis  & Clarence Scott
1994—Don Griffin & Antonio Langham
2008—Brandon McDonald & Eric Wright

Dallas Cowboys
Multiple seasons
Mel Renfro and Herb Adderly

1970-71—Herb Adderley &  Mel Renfro: Only two seasons together, but as good a duo as ever stepped on the field together. Adderley recharged in '70-71. 
1981-83—Dennis Thurman & Everson Walls
Single-seasons
1977—Benny Barnes &  Aaron Kyle
1994—Larry Brown  & Kevin Smith
1996—Deion Sanders  &  Kevin Smith

Denver Broncos 
Harris and Talib/ Credit: Zimbio

Multiple seasons
2014-17—Chris Harris Jr. & Aqib Talib: With Harris in slot a lot this was one of the top two duos in the present era, when really, we should include the third corner. 
Louis Wright and Steve Foley
1976-77—Louis Wright & Steve Foley
1989-91—Tyrone Braxton & Wymon Henderson
1996-97—Ray Crockett  & Lionel Washington
Single-seasons
1981—Aaron Kyle &  Louis Wright
1984—Mike Harden & Louis Wright
1987 Mike Harden &  Mark Haynes
2006—Champ Bailey & Darrent Williams
2012—Champ Bailey & Chris Harris Jr.

Detroit Lions
LeBeau and Lane

Multiple seasons
1960-63—Night Train Lane & Dick LeBeau: A couple of the Night Train's best seasons were in the early 1960s. 
1967-71—Lem Barney & Dick LeBeau: Barney came out like a house on fire. 
1983-85—Bruce McNorton  & Bobby Watkins: An underrated pair. 
Single-seasons
1976—Lem Barney & Levi Johnson
2000—Terry Fair & Bryant Westbrook
2011—Chris Houston & Eric Wright
2017—Nevin Lawson & Darius Slay

Green Bay Packers
Herb Adderly and Jesse Whittenton

Multiple seasons
1962-64—Jesse Whittenton & Herb Adderly: Duo was broken apart, but in their era, one of, if not the best pair.
1966-69—Bob Jeter & Herb Adderly
1972-74—Willie Buchanon & Ken Ellis
1981-83—Mark Lee & Mike McCoy
1984-85—Mark Lee & Tim Lewis
1987-89—Dave Brown & Mark Lee
1995-96— Doug Evans & Craig Newsome
Single-seasons
1978—Willie Buchanon & Mike McCoy
1997—Doug Evans &  Tyrone Williams
2001—Mike McKenzie &  Tyrone Williams
2003—Al Harris  & Mike McKenzie
2010—Tramon Williams  & Charles Woodson

Houston Texans
Multiple seasons
2011-13 Kareem Jackson  & Johnathan Joseph

Indianapolis Colts
Bob Boyd and Lenny Lyles


Multiple seasons
1963-68—Bobby Boyd  & Lenny Lyles: A couple of zone corners who were disciplined and could tackle and pick off balls. 
1970-71—Jim Duncan & Charlie Stukes: Colts had tough, tough zone defenses in 1970-71. 
1996-96—Ray Buchanan & Eugene Daniel
2005-06—Jason David &  Nick Harper
Single-seasons
1960—Bobby Boyd & Milt Davis
1977—Nelson Munsey & Norm Thompson
2007—Kelvin Hayden &  Marlin Jackson

Jacksonville Jaguars
Multiple seasons
2017-18—A.J. Bouye & Jalen Ramsey: Broken up too soon, but as fine a pair of corners ad one could in the recent NFL
Single-seasons
1999—Aaron Beasley & Fernando Bryant
2006— Rashean Mathis &  Brian Williams


Kansas City Chiefs
Multiple seasons
1984-90—Albert Lewis &  Kevin Ross: One of the best tandems ever combining for 50 interceptions and six Pro Bowls. 
1969-72—Jim Marsalis & Emmitt Thomas: Thomas carried the load, but Marsalis could old his own.
1980-82—Gary Green  &  Eric Harris: Green was special and Harris, tall and smart. 
1995-97—Dale Carter & James Hasty
2006-07—Ty Law & Patrick Surtain
2016-17—Steven Nelson & Marcus Peters
Single-seasons
1962—Dave Grayson & Duane Wood
2003—Dexter McCleon & Eric Warfield
2019—Bashaud Breeland & Charvarius Ward

Las Vegas Raiders
Haynes and Hayes

Multiple seasons
1984-87—Lester Hayes & Mike Haynes:  Actually partnered up late in 1983, one of best ever, if not the best. 
1967-69—Willie Brown & Kent McCloughan: As good a duo as ever played in AFL
1971-74—Willie Brown & Nemiah Wilson
1988-93—Terry McDaniel & Lionel Washington
1999-02—Eric Allen  & Charles Woodson
Single-seasons
1975—Willie Brown & Skip Thomas
2006—Nnamdi Asomugha  & Fabian Washington

Los Angeles Chargers
Multiple seasons
1988-91—Gill Byrd & Sam Seale
1961-62—Claude Gibson & Dick Harris: 25 picks in two seasons together
Single-seasons
1966—Speedy Duncan & Jimmy Warren
1966—Speedy Duncan & Miller Farr
1979—Willie Buchanon & Mike Williams
1998— Charles Dimry & Terrance Shaw
2010—Antoine Cason  & Quentin Jammer
2017—Casey Hayward  & Tyrell Williams

Los Angeles Rams

Multiple seasons
1978-82— Pat Thomas & Rod Perry: Both had injury issues in 1979, but when healthy this pair of 5'9" leapers were as good as any in NFL. Per16 games the duo averaged 11 picks per season and combined they took five picks back for scores from '78-82. 
1966-68—Irv Cross & Clancy Williams
1984-85— Gary Green  & Leroy Irvin
1986-88— Leroy Irvin &  Jerry Gray
Single-seasons
Rod Perry and Monte Jackson. Credit:  Sandy Huffaker

1976Monte Jackson & Rod Perry: Combined for 16 picks and Jackson was All-Pro
1999—Todd Lyght & Dexter McCleon
2003—Jerametrius Butler & Travis Fisher
2012—Cortland Finnegan & Janoris Jenkins

Miami Dolphins
Multiple seasons
1972-75—Tim Foley & Curtis Johnson: Paired for four years, winning two titles. 
2000-03—Sam Madison & Patrick Surtain: Superior duo, excelled at man coverage
Single-seasons
1982—Don McNeal & Gerald Small
1998—Terrell Buckley & Sam Madison

Minnesota Vikings
Multiple seasons
1988-90—Carl Lee & Najee Mustafaa
Single-seasons
2006— Fred Smoot  &  Antoine Winfield
2017—Xavier Rhodes &  Trae Waynes

New England Patriots

Multiple seasons
1978-82—Raymond Clayborn & Mike Haynes: Money issues broked this duo apart in 1983.
1983-89— Raymond Clayborn & Ronnie Lippett: Haynes' money issues caused him to be traded to the Raiders and a new combo was born.
2000-02—Ty Law & Otis Smith
Single-seasons
2003—Ty Law & Tyrone Poole
2019—Stephon Gilmore & Jason McCourty: In this era, have to mention JC Jackson as well. 

New Orleans Saints
Multiple seasons
1981-86—Dave Waymer & Johnnie Poe:
1991-92—Vince Buck & Toi Cook
Single-seasons
2017—Ken Crawley &  Marshon Lattimore

New York Giants

Multiple seasons
1961-64—Erich Barnes & Dick Lynch: Among the best of their era, and ever.
1996-99—Jason Sehorn & Phillippi Sparks
Single-seasons
1978— Terry Jackson & Ray Rhodes
2016— Eli Apple & Janoris Jenkins

New York Jets
Multiple seasons
1997-98—Aaron Glenn & Otis Smith
Single-seasons
2010—Antonio Cromartie  & Darrelle Revis

Philadelphia Eagles

Multiple seasons
1996-02—Bobby Taylor & Troy Vincent
1980-85—Herm Edwards & Roynell Young
Single-seasons
1960—Tom Brookshier  & Jimmy Carr
1974— Joe Lavender & John Outlaw
1988—Eric Allen & Roynell Young
2009— Sheldon Brown & Asante Samuel

Pittsburgh Steelers
JT Thomas and Mel Blount

Multiple seasons
1974-77—Mel Blount & J.T. Thomas: Solid Cover-2 corners and could play man as well, part of some of the best pass defenses ever. 
1990-94—D.J. Johnson & Rod Woodson
Single-seasons
2019—Joe Haden & Steven Nelson

San Francisco 49ers

Multiple seasons
1970-76—Bruce Taylor & Jimmy Johnson: Especially good from 1970-73
1981-83—Ronnie Lott & Eric Wright
1966-68—Jimmy Johnson & Kermit Alexander
1986-87—Tim McKyer & Don Griffin
1992-93—Don Griffin &  Eric Davis
Single-seasons
1994—Eric Davis & Deion Sanders
2011—Tarell Brown & Carlos Rogers

Seattle Seahawks
Sherman and Browner. Credit: 97 Rock

Multiple seasons
2011-13—Brandon Browner & Richard Sherman: Only three years together for this corner duo that were the outside defenders in the "Legion of Boom" secondary. Both exceptionally tall, but Sherman the far, far superior player.
1982-85—Dave Brown & Keith Simpson
1989-93—Dwayne Harper & Patrick Hunter: Underrated.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Multiple seasons
2001-05—Brian Kelly & Ronde Barber: Cover two corners, good tackles, good run support.
1977-79—Mike Washington & Jeris White: Solid zone corners for the late-1970s Buccaneer defense, especially good in 1979. 
1998-00—Donnie Abraham & Ronde Barber

Tennesee Titans
Multiple seasons
1994-97 Cris Dishman & Darryll Lewis
1960-62—Tony Banfield & Mark Johnston: Banfield was the AFL's first great corner but injuries broke this tandem apart
2007-08—Cortland Finnegan & Nick Harper
Single-seasons
1968—Miller Farr & W.K. Hicks
1977—Willie Alexander & Zeke Moore

Washington Redskins

Multiple seasons
1983-86—Vernon Dean & Darrell Green
1978-81—Joe Lavender & Lemar Parrish
1971-75—Pat Fischer & Mike Bass
1964-65—Johnny Sample & Lonnie Sanders
1976-77—Pat Fischer & Joe Lavender
Single-seasons
2001—Champ Bailey & Fred Smoot