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Best Of The NFC West: Strong Safeties

So far it's been all about the offense in the Best of the NFC West segment this offseason. Today the defense will get some love beginning with the strong safeties. The current crop of safeties in NFC West are arguably some of the best, or will be some of the best in the league one day. The job of the strong safety is to defend the deep range of the field, and also provide support against the run, emphasizing the word "strong", in strong safety.  If there's one thing that we as Cardinal fans are familiar with, it's great play from this position.

  1. Adrian Wilson - If you had to construct the mold of an ideal strong safety, it would have to be Wilson, who's frame looks like it's been chiseled from stone. Wilson has had a stranglehold as the best safety in the NFC for the last few seasons, largly due to his size, athleticism, and commitment to the team. He's clearly the leader of the defense. He can blitz, drop in coverage, or help defend against the run. He's a pivotal part of the Cardinals defense and is an important piece to the puzzle in 2010. His speed can sometimes hurt his play, as quicker ball carriers can give him problems.
  2. Michael Lewis - Lewis has played well above the expectations in San Francisco after his days in Philly. He's a hard-hitting safety that can play in the box, a la Adrian Wilson, and defend very well against the run. He compiled 82 tackles last season and added an interception and a sack. His obvious weakness is defending the pass. He can routinely get caught out of coverage and he has drawn his share of pass interference penalties during his career. He's also a concussion away from career threatening problems after he suffered multiple blows to the head just last season alone.
  3. James Butler - After a 69-tackle, three-interception season, it's easy to see that the Rams were very fortunate when they acquired Butler last offseason. He replaced an aging Cory Chavous and was familiar with the defensive playbook that Steve Spagnola used. Butler is a leader on defense that will quickly reach the point of attack at the line of scrimmage. He does a good job getting other defenders in position and plays mid range coverage well. Where he falters, is the deep ball. Other teams have exploited his tendency to poorly defend deep passes. He's also a bit undersized compared to the aformentioned players.
  4. Lawyer Milloy - In all reality, Milloy is only in Seattle to take rookie safety, Kam Chancellor, under his wing. The Seahawks were high on Chancellor when they drafted him and his size(6'3, 231) and potential could set them up to feature a very good safety duo one day. Milloy's pass coverage skills have completely dwindled over the years. He can still provide adequate run defense and leadership, but he'll become a liability the longer he's in the line up for the Seahawks.

Next week we'll break down the free safeties, which should be interesting considering all four teams feature top quality players at the position. With Adrian Wilson still the cream of the crop, will he earn his third straight Pro Bowl, and second straight All Pro appearance in 2010?