After watching Seattle attack DaRon Bland, should we be concerned? I know what he has done as far as the interceptions is phenomenal, but is he capable of shutting down elite wide receivers? Or do you think he will continue to be exploited? – Bob McDonald/Cleveland, OH
Nick Eatman: One of the two phrases I’d like to completely erase from our vocabulary is “shut-down” cornerback. I just don’t think it exists anymore. Now, the other is “Power 5 Conference” because if we’ve seen anything in college football here over the weekend, there is no such thing as 5 power conferences because with only four seats at the table, someone is going to be viewed as not-so powerful after all (sorry FSU). Ok, back to cornerback. In today’s pass-happy league, we’ve got some of the greatest athletes in the world playing wide receiver and just to stay close to them is a challenge for cornerbacks. I think there are some really good ones and ones that can win most of the time. But I don’t think anyone is shutting anyone down these days. Maybe Ramsey is close and Revis was one of them and of course, Deion. But now we’re taking it back two decades to find that kind of player. I think Bland is a really good cornerback with unreal ball-skills and playmaking ability. But I don’t think he’s a shut-down cornerback but then again, I don’t think they’re around anymore.
Kurt: I think the idea that there are still shutdown cornerbacks in today’s game, a la Deion Sanders, is a myth. These wideouts are just too talented and the offensive schemes too complex to expect any one defensive back to completely smother an opponent. Who would you consider a shutdown corner this season? The Jets’ Sauce Gardner? Pro Football Focus has him graded as the NFL’s third-best coverage cornerback at 90.3, but his passer rating against is 97.0 and quarterbacks have completed 65.9 percent of their passes when throwing at him. Denver’s Patrick Surtain earns praise, but PFF has him at 67.6 in coverage while allowing a 57.9 completion percentage with an 85.9 rating. Chicago’s Jaylon Johnson? He’s got PFF’s top coverage grade at 90.4, but is giving up an 84.6 completion percentage and 98.4 rating. These guys are considered three of the best, and deservedly so, but are those truly shutdown numbers? There is a certain risk/reward with ball-hawking cornerbacks. Yes, they’re going to give up some plays, but if they have a short memory, they’re also going to make them – just like Bland. So try to exploit him if you dare, but consider this: PFF has Bland graded second overall in coverage at 90.3 with a completion percentage allowed of 60.9 and a passer rating against of just 64.1. If he’s not a shutdown corner, I’d say he’s at least in pretty good company.