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It’s amazing just how quickly things can change. In 2011, free agent Nnamdi Asomugha – who had just signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as part of the “dream team” – was widely regarded as one of the NFL’s elite cornerbacks. Only after Asomugha and Darrelle Revis, came the other usual suspects: Charles Woodson, DeAngelo Hall, Champ Bailey, etc. While Revis is still seen as a beast two years later, Asomugha has rapidly become a relative afterthought in the conversation. Recently however, there has been one new name thrust into that elite spotlight.
Aqib Talib was selected as the 20th overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; that year he recorded four interceptions, which was good for most in the category among rookies. He followed up a strong rookie campaign with five interceptions in 2009 and another six picks in 2010. Unfortunately, his 2010 season was cut short by a torn hip tendon, which he suffered in week 13 of that year. Then in 2011, after thirteen games, Talib experienced another setback and was placed on season-ending IR with a hamstring injury.
While Talib had concerns with nagging hip and leg ailments, he also was also generating buzz for his conduct away from the field. In 2009, he allegedly attacked a taxi driver and was booked for battery and resisting arrest. Then in 2011, he was accused of firing a gun at his sister’s boyfriend, which resulted in a felony-issued warrant for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. However, these latter charges were eventually dropped, largely due to insufficient evidence and character concerns of the accuser.
Seeing in him great potential, the New England Patriots acquired Talib from Tampa Bay (along with a seventh-round pick) in November of 2012 for next to nothing – a 2013 fourth-round draft pick. It was a tremendously low-risk / high-reward situation for New England and thus far, has paid noticeable dividends. Talib’s presence had an immediate impact – one that was arguably felt most after he was sidelined with a thigh issue in the second half of the AFC title game against Baltimore in 2012 – a game which New England ultimately lost.
Despite his associated risks, Aqib Talib’s on-field play is no joke. He certainly possesses the size, speed and athleticism to succeed as an elite cornerback in the NFL. Even after missing action in week seven (hip injury) this year against the Jets, Talib currently remains tied for the league lead in interceptions (4).
On October 23rd, 2013, former cornerback-turned-safety Charles Woodson told NFL Network that he believes Aqib Talib is the best cornerback in the league. Undoubtedly, these are flattering words from one of the position’s most renowned players, and if Talib can live up to this claim for the remainder of the 2013 season, the Pats will need to ‘show him the money’ to secure him for the foreseeable future.
The talent is there. The real question is: Can Talib stay healthy and out of trouble long enough to substantiate Woodson’s bold statement? What do you think?