Trend taking cornerbacks to new heights

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
11:19
AM ET
John Clayton's piece on NFL trends singles out the Seattle Seahawks' big cornerbacks for their ability to match up against tight ends on occasion.

I do recall noticing Seattle's 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner shadowing San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis at times this season, including when the teams played in Week 1.

While Seattle has led the way toward big corners in the NFC West, the Seahawks are not alone in valuing size at the position. Arizona's Patrick Peterson stands just over 6 feet tall. He weighs 219 pounds. That height-weight combination led some to project him as a safety down the line. But that type of projecting might reflect increasingly outdated perceptions about ideal cornerbacks.

A decade ago, I remember faulting the Seahawks for putting too much emphasis on size at the position. Ike Charlton was among the bigger cornerbacks failing to pan out for the team. But with Browner earning Pro Bowl honors and 6-3 rookie teammate Richard Sherman playing even better late in the season, by most accounts, Seattle is clearly onto something.

Browner led the NFL in penalties this season, but the Seahawks were OK with some of those infractions as a consequence of aggressive play. He and Sherman could not stop Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald in Week 17, but their size allowed them to hold their own physically to a degree the Seahawks' cornerbacks could not in previous seasons.

The chart ranks notable NFC West cornerbacks by height. I excluded the retiring Al Harris, among several others figuring less prominently into their teams' plans.

Gregg Williams, the new defensive coordinator in St. Louis, finished the 2011 regular season with Jabari Greer (5-10), Tracy Porter (5-11), Leigh Torrence (6-0) and Patrick Robinson (5-11) on the roster.

Size in the secondary increasingly matters against teams with dynamic tight ends such as Davis, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and others.

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