AFC North News: Defensive Backs

JACKSONVILLE FL - NOVEMBER 21: Mike Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars goes up for a ball against Joe Haden #23 during a game agaisnt the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field on November 21 2010 in Jacksonville Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The All Division Preseason Team was chosen based on performance in 2011, projected success in 2012 and extraneous factors, such as potential, opportunity and overall talent. Positions are taken generally, meaning there won't necessarily be one right tackle and one left tackle, but there will be two offensive tackles.

We'll make this simple, due to the differences in defenses across the board in the AFC North. We're selecting two cornerbacks and two safeties.

None of them should come as an incredible surprise.

A division that used to pride itself on linebackers has turned into the home of some of the best secondary players in the NFL. The age range is quite diverse, and the historical impact on the game is impressive. The younger players are turning into bona fide superstars, and it's probably the deepest unit we've gone into during this series.

All AFC North: Offensive Tackle | Offensive Guard | Center | Running Backs| Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Quarterbacks | Defensive Linemen | Linebackers

CB Lardarius Webb, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens selected Jimmy Smith in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, looking to provide some depth at the cornerback position. They had seen potential in Webb, even after a knee injury ended his rookie 2009 season prematurely. They may not have expected him to turn into one of the best cornerbacks in the league by 2011, but that's exactly what happened. Now, they have a cornerstone for their transitioning defense, who, scary as it seems for the rest of the AFC North, could get even better.

CB Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns

One of the best all-around corners in the league, Haden is an outstanding cover man, but is probably even better against the run. He possesses a great build, giving the Browns the ability to play zone with Haden shadowing the bevy of outstanding receivers in the AFC North.

S Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

Polamalu, the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year, continues to build his resume toward being considered the best strong safety in the history of the NFL. At this point in his career, it's not even as if he's anywhere close to being a traditional strong safety; he's more like a general defensive player who wreaks havoc at the line of scrimmage, in the box or in the deep secondary. It's still a requisite for opposing quarterbacks to identify 43 at the start of every play.

S Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens

Injuries are seemingly taking its toll on Reed, but he's still as dangerous as any safety in the game. Baltimore hasn't needed him to provide the same level of run support as he did in his phenomenal heyday, but he still makes plays, seemingly every game.

Honorable Mention

S T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns

Showing the depth of defensive backs in the AFC North, Ward edges out Baltimore's Bernard Pollard and Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark for the honorable mention spot, despite missing the second half of the 2011 season with a foot injury. Ward is a physical run defender, and looks to continue to improve in his fourth NFL season.


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