As normal there has been a lot of movement in free agency this NFL off-season. One interesting thing that it has provided is the combination of some pretty good cornerback duos coming up for the 2023 season. There will be much debate heading into the season as to who the top duos will be. Here are my thoughts not that topic.
1 – Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey (Miami Dolphins)
Certainly this pairing has received the most hype, and perhaps rightfully so. We have two of the most marquee players at the position coming together for the Dolphins. Obviously, both Howard and Ramsey have been high producers in the NFL since their rookie seasons. Between the two of them they have played in four pro bowls, and their combined 14 seasons. Howard is coming off of a career low as a full-time starter of one interception. However, he did defend 12 passes and is second overall in the last six seasons with 28 interceptions. He has also defended 83 passes in his career and scored twice on pick sixes.
Ramsey has been a marquee name from day one. While some might admit that some it has to do with his personality and willingness to be at times, controversial, you can’t deny his play on the field. Ramsey, who entered the league in the same year as Howard has himself played in three pro bowls and was a Super Bowl champ with the Rams in 2021. He has also intercepted 19 passes and defended 92 more while scoring one touchdown in his career. The major reason I give this peering the nod is because of the defensive system they will be playing in. Vic Fangio‘s defense will allow both of these players to have more big play opportunities. Both Ramsey and Howard are confident players that will attack a play with intelligence, and without hesitation. And in Fangio’s system, they will have a chance to see the quarterback more and take it vantage of their instincts.
2 – Darius Slay and James Bradberry (Philadelphia Eagles)
One of if not the best thing the Philadelphia Eagles did this off-season was get both of these players re-signed for the 2023 year. There wasn’t a more solid cornerback combo in 2022. Slay an ever consistent performer dating back to his days in Detroit continued on that path with three interceptions and 14 pass break ups. For his career he has 26 interceptions and leads everyone that will be discussed in this article with 133 career pass break ups. He has also scored twice on interceptions in his career. There’s nothing to indicate that he won’t continue along this path in 2023.
Bradley has been a consistent performer in his career as well. However, he managed to notch his play up to an even higher level in his first year with the Eagles. Bradbery equaled Slay with three interceptions. He also added 17 passes defensed (career high). He also scored his first career touchdown on a pick six.
What puts this pair at number two for me over the others is the fact that they are back with their same team and will have some comfort. What keeps them out of the top spot is that they will be playing in a new defensive system and Philadelphia won’t have the same team that they did in 2022 because of some free agency defections.
3 – Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore (Dallas Cowboys)
I have Diggs and Gilmore at number three but they could end up being the most intriguing pairing of all the groups. Diggs has been the biggest ball hawk in the NFL over the last two seasons. He backed off a bit from his daredevil ways in 2021 when he collect 11 interceptions, and at one point threatened the long-standing season record of 14. However, he did manage to pull down three interceptions in 2022 and defend 14 passes. In his short three-year career, he has averaged almost 6 interceptions per season and has already managed to find the end zone twice.
Gilmore is the only one in this article that has won a defensive player of the year award. He has also played in three pro bowls in his 11 year career. Stats wise. He also has the most interceptions with 29, though he is the oldest of the bunch. Considered at one point to be the best corner in the game, Gilmore showed last season in Indianapolis that he is still a very solid player when he notched two interceptions and defended 11 passes for the Colts.
In a Dan Quinn manned defense, there’s a chance that Gilmore could have one of the best seasons of his career as he’s allowed to make full use of his extensive football IQ. This will certainly be an interesting pair to watch all year.
Others to Consider
Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas (Green Bay Packers)
Douglas is listed as a nickelback on the Packers roster but he played a majority of snaps on the outside like Alexander did. The pair ended the 2022 season with the most interceptions out of any other duo mentioned in this article. Douglas has rescued his career in Green Bay and Alexander is coming off his best statistical season for the pack. They could make waves in 2023
Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste (Washington Commanders)
If you were looking purely at stats, then it would be odd to have this duo here. St-Juste is yet to log a career interception. However, if you’ve cut the tape on, you realize it’s only a matter of time before St-Juste starts putting up numbers. Fuller is a savvy vet with top-tier footwork And 14 career interceptions with 66 pass break ups. Washington arguably had the best secondary unit last season.
Jamel Dean, and Carlton Davis (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
While these two are short on pizzazz, they are a solid duo. Both players are young and it’s entirely possible that they could have breakout stat years in 2023. As it stands now, both players have seven career interceptions apiece, and between the two of them 105 pass break ups in their career. Dean also has a pick six on his résumé.
Sauce Gardner and DJ Reid (NY Jets)
There is a tremendous amount of hype around Gardner and understandably so. His name is Sauce and he plays in New York City. Add to that his solid play as a rookie, and you have all the media content that you need. You have to do a whole lot right to get 20 pass break ups as a corner in the NFL. For me, I need to see if he can live up to the hype in his sophomore campaign. The abilities are definitely there and DJ Reed was solid as a New York Jet in 2022. If these two can level up from last year‘s play then it’s conceivable that they could be the number one duo when all is said and done.
Chad Wilson is the owner of All Eyes DB Camp and author of "101 DB Tips". He played college football at the University of Miami and briefly in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks. Over his 15 year high school football coaching career, he tutored over a dozen Division I defensive backs and as a trainer has worked with NFL All Pros, first round draft picks, college football All Americans and Top 10 ranked high school football prospects.