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Press Man: Ranking the NFC West secondaries

The next to last installment in our offseason series.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to keep up with the series, here is last weeks list.

Another large turnout, another not so close poll. We had 331 votes cast, with the Seahawks taking home 179 (54%). The Cardinals came in second with 99 (30%). The 49ers and Rams took home 28 (8%) and 25 (8%) respectively.

And then there was one. Welcome back, everyone! We are down to one week of rankings! The Cardinals reported to camp on Friday, and the rest of the NFC West will do the same this week. Finally, there are things to talk about and not just speculate.

As we round out the final lists in the series, I want to thank everyone who participated and created a lively offseason. While we may have disagreed with the lists, it’s always fun to hear an opposing viewpoint on why a certain player or position is better than the other. So without further ado, let's rank!

San Francisco 49ers: Fourth

49ers Secondary

Name Overall Grade Run Grade Coverage Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Name Overall Grade Run Grade Coverage Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Colbert, Adrian - - - - -
Davis, Will 70.3 65.6 69.8 60 54
Franklin, Zach - - - - -
Iworah, Prince Charles - - - - -
James, Chanceller - - - - -
Jerome, Lorenzo - - - - -
Johnson, Dontae 65.8 49.2 67.3 57.7 101
Jones, Don - - - - -
Reaser, Keith 54.8 65.5 55.8 61.6 351
Redmond, Will - - - - -
Reid, Eric 50.5 56.6 68.6 64 668
Robinson, Rashard 50.4 45.2 61.6 59.1 543
Sunseri, Vinnie, 46.2 48.1 46.9 59.4 16
Tartt, Jaquiski 50.7 43.7 73.7 54.1 612
Ward, Jimmie 74.5 70.2 74.1 64 668
Williams, K'Waun - - - - -
Witherspoon, Ahkello - - - - -

The 49ers come in last the second week in a row. The loss of Antoine Bethea is no factor in the outcome, this falls simply on the lack of NFL experience and talent.

The second most talented player in the secondary is Jimmie Ward. Ward has had his fair share of injuries in his career, playing a full season only once in three years. He missed five games in 2016, and eight in 2014. Ward started his career at corner but has been told he will move to safety this upcoming season. He could still see time at corner, but the move to safety is due to the 49ers switch to a 4-3 defense. Ward will likely be asked to fill a role similar to that of Earl Thomas in Seattle.

Dontae Johnson was a fourth round selection in 2014. Johnson saw significant time as a rookie, playing 503 snaps. Those reduced to 366 in 2015, and only 101 in 2016. Johnson has a chance to start in 2017 due to the 49ers move to a press heavy style defense.

Keith Reaser is a good backup type player for the 49ers. With the influx of newly acquired players in San Francisco, Reaser has an opportunity to make the roster September.

Jaquiski Tartt was drafted in the second round back in 2015. Tartt was expected to be Bethea’s replacement. With Bethea no longer on the roster, Tartt’s opportunity to start has opened. The transition to the new scheme could see Tartt play as a box safety, allowing him to use his entire 6’1, 221lb frame to its full effect.

Eric Reid is easily the most talented player in the secondary. Reid will make the move to strong safety. Reid was used to playing both safety spots but is excited to play closer to the line, using his size to be a factor in the run game.

Rashard Robinson played 543 snaps as a rookie and was graded out as the 49ers worst corner. That did not factor into the coaching staffs decision to pencil him as the teams starting right cornerback. Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh had this to say about Robinson back in May;

“He’s a dog. I like him. He’s made of the right stuff, his attitude, his mindset is unique for a corner.

“He does not want to get beat. Every rep is so important to him. He doesn’t care who he’s going against. It’s a tremendous mindset when you get a guy like Rashard who is so focused on what he’s capable of and about him and how he’s going to win and the man in front of him has no bearing on what he’s about to do.”

Ahkello Witherspoon was a guy I was hoping the Cardinals might take in the draft. The corner out of Colorado landed with an NFC West rival, however. Witherspoon has an opportunity to start week one opposite of Robinson. Witherspoon was able to get some first team reps during 49ers minicamp.

The 49ers have a ton of untapped potential, but that’s all it is. The 49ers don’t have a world beater in the secondary, but it is filled with a number of guys who can be good NFL players.

Arizona Cardinals: Third

Cardinals Secondary

Name Overall Grade Run Grade Coverage Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Name Overall Grade Run Grade Coverage Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Baker, Budda - - - - -
Bouka, Elie - - - - -
Ford, Rudy - - - - -
Gallon, Ironhead - - - - -
Gray, Daniel - - - - -
Hayes, Gump - - - - -
Lewis, Ryan - - - - -
Rolle, Jumal - - - - -
Shelton, Sojourn - - - - -
Zamort, Ronald - - - - -
Peterson, Patrick 83.9 77.7 83.5 59.7 1035
Miller, Harlan 82.8 77 83.2 60 140
Branch, Tyvon 77.2 52.7 77.4 51.9 270
Mathieu, Tyrann 72.1 73.1 60.6 66.8 561
Bethel, Justin 71.2 43 71.6 60 270
Bethea, Antoine 49.1 58.8 48.9 57.2 1125
Williams, Brandon 37.3 73.9 37 60 241

Yes. Third place. Patrick Peterson alone does not make up the numerous questions the Cardinals face in 2017. Who are the starting safeties? Who starts opposite Peterson? Is Mathieu finally healthy and ready to play a full season? These are the questions that fans are hoping get answered in the next month.

Patrick Peterson is arguably the best corner in the NFC West, and among the best in the NFL. Peterson is the only thing that elevates the Cardinals over the 49ers. A guy who makes defenses throw to the opposite side of the field.

Tyrann Mathieu is coming off a season in which he was never 100%. Mathieu suffered that torn ACL against the Eagles late in 2015, costing him his 2016 season as well. Mathieu has never played a full season in the NFL. But his talent is undeniable. His rookie season he was in the conversation for DROY, prior to his torn ACL. His 2014 season was a forgettable season of recovery. His 2015 season saw a guy who was hungry, and against pushed himself into contention for DPOY. But again, an ACL injury put that to rest. 2017 will be an interesting year for the Badger.

The Cardinals added Antonie Bethea from the 49ers during the offseason. Bethea is older, but Arians believes he still has something in the tank. They also added Budda Baker in the Draft, who could find his way onto the field early and often during the season if he can produce a good preseason.

Justin Bethel is vying for the team's corner spot opposite Peterson. The preseason starter in 2016, Bethel was hampered by a foot injury that ultimately saw him lose his job to rookie Brandon Williams and Marcus Cooper. Williams is again in contention, but a strong opening to camp and a good offseason, Bethel is holding him off for now.

Tyvon Branch found his way to IR twice last season. He is now the only player to ever be put on IR twice in the same season. Branch enters his second season with the team, and the team has to be hoping he can stay healthy.

The Cardinals have undeniable talent, but if those players cannot stay healthy the season is lost. Banking on a 32-year-old safety is a risky move too.

Los Angeles Rams: Second

Rams Secondary

Name Overall Grade Run Grade Coverage Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Name Overall Grade Run Grade Coverage Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Hatfield, Dominique - - - - -
Johnson, Isaiah - - - - -
Johnson, John - - - - -
Penton, Aarion - - - - -
Peterson, Kevin - - - - -
Alexander, Maurice 83 61.8 85.3 62.7 920
Johnson, Trumaine 80.5 35.9 81.5 56.1 954
Joyner, Lamarcus 78.4 46.1 78.1 62 698
Robey-Coleman, Nickell 78.4 55.5 79.2 57.3 573
Webster, Kayvon 55.6 62.1 55.1 60 59
Christian, Marqui 54.9 60 61.5 55 3
Davis, Cody 53.9 49.7 72.5 54.6 278
Jordan, Michael 42.5 84.5 41.1 60 177
Hill, Troy 38.7 73.7 38.3 60 338
Gaines, E.J. 37 70 36.5 60.7 614
Countess, Blake 36.1 51.4 29.9 71.8 142

I think we all knew who was going to top this list. But I think many of you expected the Cardinals to be in the top two again.

Maurice Alexander was a welcome surprise in 2016. The teams starting free safety got an opportunity to start and was the Rams best-rated player in the secondary. Alexander will move from free safety to strong with the departure of TJ McDonald. Alexander was PFF’s “secret superstar” for the Rams.

Trumaine Johnson will play for a second consecutive season on the franchise tag. Johnson only had one interception in 2016, but still was the Rams second best secondary member. Johnson is pushing to finally be labeled one of the NFL’s elite corners.

Lamarcus Joyner was a good slot corner the last two seasons for the Rams. Under the new scheme, he will move to free safety in the hopes that they can keep his 5’8 self on the field at all times. Joyner could still see time as a slot corner in nickel defense but will be a safety in base sets.

Kayvon Webster was buried beneath a very talented secondary in Denver. But in Los Angeles, Webster now has his opportunity to shine. With Wade Phillips, Webster has someone he is familiar with, and someone who knows his capabilities.

Nickell Robey-Coleman returns to the city he played his college ball in. Coleman will be buried behind talent but is a capable corner if the need arises.

The Rams will have a good defense once again in 2017, their concerns lay on the offsensive side of the ball.

Seattle Seahawks: First

Seahawks Secondary

Name Overall Grade Run Grade Coverage Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Name Overall Grade Run Grade Coverage Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Griffin, Shaquill - - - - -
Hill, Delano - - - - -
McCray, Demetrius - - - - -
Thompson, Tedric - - - - -
Tyson, Mike - - - - -
Chancellor, Kam 91.2 90 86.2 70.3 854
Thomas, Earl 84.6 77.9 85.5 60.2 693
Sherman, Richard 84.4 81.9 83.4 59.4 1175
McDougald, Bradley 77.1 76.4 72.1 66.2 1012
Shead, DeShawn 76.2 81.3 75.9 56.1 1003
Desir, Pierre 72.8 61.4 72.6 60 22
Elliot, DeAndre 53.8 50.2 54.7 60 47
Thorpe, Neiko 49.4 81.5 47.5 60 105
Cromartie, Marcus 45.6 49.9 46.2 57.3 31
Lane, Jeremy 43.2 55 44 53.8 871
Simone, Jordan

And, we all knew this was coming. Fielding the best duo of safeties and a top-tier corner will do that.

Earl Thomas is on track to participate in Training Camp. Whether that is day one, or sometime after is to be seen. If Thomas can come back after his scary leg injury it will be a huge success for a guy who initially thought his career was over.

Kam Chancellor may be unhappy about his contractual situation, but he is letting his play do all the talking. At 29, Chancellor is trying to cash in at least once more before he’s deemed too old for a significant extension.

Richard Sherman was in the news frequently this offseason. Whether it was a possible trade situation or disputes in the locker room, Sherman made the headlines. Whether there was truth behind them or not, the world may never know. But what we do know is that Sherman is a top level corner.

Outside of those three, there are some minor questions. Jeremy Lane was not particularly good, but has earned Pete Carroll’s trust and has been named the early starter opposite of Sherman.

Neiko Thorpe is also in contention, but even if he cannot win the role he is a value on special teams.

Deshawn Shead will be sidelined into 2017 season. Shead will probably miss the teams first six games if only that.

Third round pick Shaq Griffin had a good offseason, and the Tacoma Tribune took note. There are two separate beliefs. The Tribune believes Griffin is in line to be the starter opposite Sherman, while the Seattle Times believes Lane has the upper hand. Training Camp will certainly be interesting.

That’s a wrap. What say you? Spot on? Wrong? Discuss in the comments below.


Who has the best secondary in the NFC West?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Arizona Cardinals
    (42 votes)
  • 2%
    Los Angeles Rams
    (3 votes)
  • 4%
    San Francisco 49ers
    (5 votes)
  • 59%
    Seattle Seahawks
    (74 votes)
124 votes total Vote Now

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