- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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In its continued look at the top 100 offensive and top 100 defensive players in the NFL, ESPN.com unveiled players 80-71 on the respective lists on Wednesday, with another pair of Patriots showing up.
On defense, cornerback Aqib Talib, acquired at the trade deadline last season, ranked 75th on the list with an overall rating of 6.60 (more information on the grading scale is available in the link below).
Talib's impact on the secondary was substantial almost immediately upon his arrival to New England, as ESPN Stats & Info points out the following: Through the first 10 games of the 2012 season, the Patriots had the most conservative defense in the league and allowed a 69.6 Total QBR (24th in NFL). From Weeks 11-17 (after acquiring Talib), the Patriots allowed a 43.2 Total QBR (11th) and had the ninth-most aggressive defense in the league.
Talib's ability to match an opposing team's top receiver gave the Patriots some wiggle room in the secondary, and he'll likely be counted on to do some of the same this season. The team saw enough in a short period of time to re-invest in Talib as a free agent this offseason, giving him a one-year contract worth up to $5 million.
Offensively, the second Patriots offensive tackle has made the list, as Sebastian Vollmer ranked 69th and earned a rating of 6.93 (Nate Solder was 89th). The 29-year old has ascended to the top tier of right tackles in the NFL, making him a priority for the Patriots to re-sign this offseason. His four-year contract solidified that the Patriots starting offensive line from 2012 would return for 2013.
He took a unique path to the NFL, as he was a non-combine invite who generated much less buzz than a typical second-round pick. The ESPN Stats & Info group adds another unique fact about Vollmer: He is the only player on either list who did not play high school football in the United States. Vollmer started playing football at age 14 in his native Germany and led his prep school to a 25-0 record before playing college football at Houston.
To navigate the lists in their entirety, CLICK HERE.
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