- Jonathan Cyprien, S, TEN
Jonathan Cyprien was a tackling machine while with Jacksonville. He had at least 100 total tackles every year since entering the league and had at least 78 solo tackles each year. Cyprien is a very physical, downhill safety that measures in at 6’0 and 223 lbs. He has the size to be an in the box safety. However, do not count on him for many interceptions or sacks. He is not that type of safety. He isn’t super athletic. Nor does he have elite speed, posting a 4.56 forty yard dash at the combine. He does have the strength and desire to take on blocks. He is also a hard hitter and a very solid tackler.
Cyprien does not possess the coverage skills required to play the deep parts of the field, whether it is single high or 2 deep. He could be effective in a Cover 3 or any coverage where he is asked to a smaller part of the field and keep everything in front of him. Due to his aggressiveness, he will bite on play action, try to jump routes, and get too caught up on what is directly in front of him and not the route combos going on around him
Jonathan Cyprien is an ideal fit for the 3-4 system the Titans run because of his physical nature and drive downhill. The only thing does not count on him to have a plethora of pass breakups and interceptions
- Byron Jones, FS, DAL
Everyone remembers how Byron Jones lit the Combine on fire with his freakish broad jump and speed. Entering his 3rd year in the league Jones is ready to take that next step. His solo tackles jumped from 47 tackles in 2015 to 73 in 2016. He almost tabbed 100 total tackles. With his incredible range, Jones had 8 Passes Defended his rookie year and 10 his second year. The biggest thing missing from Jones’ game would be the actual interceptions.
Last year, Dallas did not have the secondary pieces that particularly fit the criteria required to effectively play to the scheme’s strengths. Jones had to focus on other responsibilities in man coverage and providing help. This did not allow him to roam the field to use his instincts and freakish athletic ability to make plays.
While Byron Jones has not put up incredible numbers to date, he is primed to take the next step in year 3 with a revamped defensive backfield that should allow for the players to rely more on instincts rather than man coverage. This will allow him to get his hands on the ball more. Being able to roam the field instead of being in coverage should allow him to post over 100 total tackles this season.
- Stephon Gilmore, CB, NE
Stephon Gilmore should undoubtedly benefit from being in the Pats defense. Gilmore had five interceptions last year with a dismal defense around him. Still only 26, Gilmore already has five seasons of NFL experience and still has plenty of room for improvement. Gilmore has broken up at least 10 every season but one, with a high of 18 in 2015.
With the front seven being so stout against the run, the Pats will be in many passing 3rd downs. With Malcolm Butler on the opposite side, QBs may be tempted to try and test Gilmore a bit more, which will allow him to potentially have more pass breakups and picks.
In the Pats defense, the secondary is demanded to know how to come and support the run. Malcolm Butler has had at least 60 combined tackles, and over 48 solo tackles the past two years. The player Gilmore is replacing, Logan Ryan, had at least 74 total tackles and 58 solo tackles.
- A.J. Bouye, CB, JAX
While A.J. Bouye earned himself a huge payday signing with Jacksonville, it will be incredibly difficult for him to repeat last season’s success. Bouye will not have the #1 defense to help him. The front seven for the Texans was a force to reckon with, even without J.J. Watt. He also had the benefit of having a quality CB opposite of him in Johnathan Joseph. Bouye will certainly see more of the offenses #1 WR’s and be challenged play in and play out. The Texans passing defense, as a whole, only allowed 199 yards per game, which was fourth best in the NFL. They were also first in yards per passing attempt with a mere 5.9 yards per attempt. That takes an entire defense working as a whole.
AJ Bouye will not have nearly the experience around him this year, and he will be one of the “lead” guys in the JAX secondary. Just don’t expect anything near the production he provided last season.
- Landon Collins, S, NYG
Landon Collins had a monster season last year. He had 100 solo tackles, 125 combined tackles, to go along with 5 interceptions. He was also able to rack up 4.0 sacks from the defensive backfield.
Collins went up from 84 total tackles in his rookie year to 100 his second year. He jumped from zero sacks to 4.0 and went from 1 interception to 5. This is not to say that Collins is not talented, but it will be incredibly difficult for him to repeat his performance. He put up such crazy numbers that the likelihood he will be able to repeat will be a task in itself. Probability is against him.
Using the one-year trajectory, he would have 116 total tackles, which is not an impossible feat. However, to go from 4.0 sacks to 8.0 sacks is highly unlikely. Also, while it would not be impossible to go from 5 interceptions to 9 picks, I would not want to rely on it. Collins is a talent for sure, but to expect him to keep the steep climb is unwise. Selling him off a season like last year could reap great rewards.
- Tony Jefferson, FS, BAL
Tony Jefferson was an unrestricted free agent this offseason and signed a 4yr/$34m contract with the Baltimore Ravens, with $19m guaranteed. This may have many thinking he can take the next step with the Ravens. However, I am not too sure.
He had tremendous talent around him in Arizona, both in the secondary and in the front seven. Playing with Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Marcus Cooper will help make any Free Safety’s job much more manageable.
Jefferson did not play much his rookie year. He was used mainly for special teams, as he only logged 19 tackles and 24 combined tackles. His second season he became a starter and recorded 70 tackles, with 78 combined. His next season he dropped in tackles, with only 58 and 78 combined. He was not injured and played in 16 games. His final year in Arizona was fairly productive with 78 tackles and 96 combined tackles.
Jefferson is not a ball hawk by any means. He only has 2 interceptions for his career, and both came in his third season. He maxed out 5 pass breakups in his final two seasons with the Cards.
Tony Jefferson will not have the same talent around him in Baltimore as he did in Arizona. His flaws could potentially become more exposed. Brandon Carr is 31 years of age and had a spotty tenure in Dallas, before signing this offseason with the Ravens. CB Jimmy Smith, 29, has had an up and down career. Eric Weddle, 32, is in the twilight of his career.
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