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Ranking all 32 Secondaries

Moving right along through position group rankings as we creep into the 2021 Season, TRO ranks the secondary units (cornerbacks and safeties) of all 32 teams from worst to best:

via Jim Mone / Associated Press

TRO continues to rank individual position groups going into the 2021 season after covering defensive linemen units, and most recently, linebacking corps, which can be found here:

As we finish up on the defensive side of the ball, TRO will rank all 32 secondary groups from worst to best (32 to 1), which will include all defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties). A good secondary obviously makes it difficult for opposing wide receivers to get open, but it also extends how much time the rest of the defense has to recognize plays and get after the quarterback. Good outside corners can lock down star receivers, and versatile safeties provide a mixture of deep coverage assistance, one on one matchups with tight ends, and even blitzing near the line of scrimmage to plug up run plays or try to sneak through for quarterback pressures. Find out where your team's assortment of these players ranks amongst the rest of the League:


via Atlanta Falcons

In 2020, the Atlanta Falcons allowed the most passing yards in the NFL by a sizable margin, 407 yards ahead of the team that allowed the second most to be exact. Arguably the best member of that secondary, Keanu Neal, is now a Dallas Cowboy and switched positions to play linebacker. They also lost Damontae Kaze, Ricardo Allen, and Sharrod Neasmann. Now, this secondary unit will be led by their young corner, A.J. Terrell. This secondary was the worst in the League last year, it has since lost its biggest contributors, and now seems to be in even worse shape than before.


via Getty Images

Jamal Adams is an outstanding football player, but his bread and butter comes from the unique skillset he brings as a pass rusher. Despite being a safety, he was single-handedly responsible for a large percentage of the team's quarterback pressures. Where Adams's game could use some improvement is in pass coverage. Last year, the Seahawks allowed the second most passing yards in the League. They lost starting corner Shaquill Griffin to Free Agency and are now left with Tre Flowers and Ahkello Witherspoon to shoulder the burden. This unit should not be any better in 2021.


via BuckeyesWire / USA Today

We promise that this entire article won't be determined off of the order in which teams allowed the most passing yards, but sometimes the numbers can be a big indicator. That being said, the Lions allowed the third most passing yards in 2020. Jeffrey Okudah is coming off of a solid rookie campaign, but you can't expect a second year cornerback to carry the load of an otherwise unimpressive secondary, especially given the fact he'll have to once again adjust to a new coach and scheme. The Lions did pick up Quinton Dunbar this offseason, but that won't be enough to nudge this unit up the rankings.


via Titanswire / USA Today

The Titans defense was in the bottom five in passing yards allowed, and this group just parted ways with both its starting outside cornerbacks in Malcom Butler and Adoree' Jackson. Kevin Byard has quitely been one of the most complete safeties in the NFL, but newly acquired Janoris Jenkins (entering his 10th season), and the remaining youngsters, Kristian Fulton and Amani Hooker, will not provide Byard the support he needs to elevate this secondary. This is another unit that needed help last year, and seemed to go backwards this offseason.


via JetsXfactor

The Jets's secondary has some upside, and they got a steal in the 2019 Draft when Bryce Hall fell to them in the fifth round, but this entire unit is entirely too young. They were out of sorts last year, allowing nearly 4,500 passing yards to opposing quarterbacks, and Jets fans can expect similar growing paints going into 2021, at least until Robert Salah's defensive scheme takes shape.


via Bob Self / Florida Times-Union / Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Jaguars's secondary is coming off of a bottom ten finish to the 2020 Season. Any time you finish with the worst record in the League, you'll likely not find yourself at the top of many position group rankings. While the focal point of the Jags Offseason has been landing Trevor Lawrence, the attention they have dedicating to attempt to improve the secondary should not be overlooked either. They took three defensive backs in this year's draft and added Shaquill Griffin and Rayshawn Jenkins in Free Agency. However, this entirely new unit will need time to mesh and grow before they make any waves.


via Heavy

Trayvon Mullen, Casey Hayward, Trevon Moehrig, and Johnathan Abram make up the likely starting secondary unit for the Las Vegas Raiders. Excluding Hayward, this unit is extremely young, and excluding Moehrig who will be starting his NFL career, each member of this group has proven to be rather inconsistent in coverage. Last year, the Raiders' defense was in the bottom tenth in terms of pass yardage allowed, and the additions of Hayward and Moehrig are unlikely to have an immediate positive impact in 2021.


via TexansWire / USA Today

The Houston Texans seem to be free falling to a 2022 number one overall draft pick. This team has been a disaster to say the least. Despite their self-implosion, Houston's secondary is not as bad as you would think. Justin Reid is an above average safety, and they certainly could have done worse than having Bradley Roby and Desmond King II as starting outside corners. While the secondary group might not be Houston's worst positional unit, and they made it out of the bottom five of these rankings, they still do not stack up very well compared to most of the rest of the League.


via InsidetheStar

Trevon Diggs is a promising, young cornerback who will be entering his second year. Last year, he had 58 tackles, three interceptions, fourteen pass deflections, one sack, and one forced fumble in only 12 games played. He will need to continue to grow and make a big second year leap because he will not have a whole lot of help in 2021. Back there with him will likely be Kelvin Joseph, Jourdan Lewis, Reggie Robinson, and Donovan Wilson. This group will probably let up an excess of passing yards all year long.


via Michael Ainsworth / AP Photo

This Philadelphia secondary as an intriguing bunch. They gained safety Anthony Harris who will be reunited with his former college teammate, Rodney McLeod. The two were on the field together for a year at the University of Virginia, and will look to anchor the back end of this Eagles defense. While both of these men make a very solid safety duo, the cornerback depth on this secondary is lacking. Darius Slay has yet to produce quite as high as Eagles fans would have hoped, and behind him is Zech McPhearson and Avonte Maddox who will not be turning many heads in 2021.


via Sports Illustrated

Budda Baker is an absolute star in this League, and rightfully so. He is an absolute machine on the back end. Arizona also has additional quality safety help in Jalen Thompson and Deionte Thopmson. However, this unit will be without Arizona Cardinal legend, Patrick Peterson. While parting ways with Peterson at this point of his career might have made sense for both parties, it could be argued that Peterson's decline in productivity is more attributed to Arizona's newer defensive scheme, and not his age. Either way, Malcom Butler, Byron Murphy, Robert Alford, and two late round rookies are not comparable to Patrick Peterson, at any point in his career. This will be a unit with good safety play, but inconsistent outside coverage by its corners.


via Chris Graythen / Getty Images

The Saints secondary took a step back from 2020. They lost Janoris Jenkins to Free Agency, and the only real replacement they picked up was Paulson Adebo in the third round of the 2021 Draft. While they still have Marshon Lattimore, he has seemingly regressed in productivity since the outstanding first two years of his career. Outside of Lattimore and Adebo, they have C. J. Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Williams, and an aging Malcolm Jenkins. This group is not overly intimidating, but it still has a couple of guys capable of making enough plays to merit a slightly below average ranking.


via Patrick Semansky / AP Photo

The Kansas City Chiefs are obviously far better on the offensive side of the ball than they are on the defensive side of the ball. While their secondary is certainly below average, it's not in terrible shape. Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill make for a very solid safety duo. Where this secondary is lacking is with its outside corner help. Chiefs fans can hold on to the fact that the future looks bright. L'Jarius Sneed had a very promising rookie year with three interceptions, seven pass deflections, 41 tackles, and three quarterback hits in only six starts and nine games played. Time will tell if he can maximize this production as a likely starter alongside Charvarius Ward in 2021 with the Free Agency loss of Bashaud Breeland. The Chiefs have a couple of young pieces to build from, but as it stands now, this unit will find itself at the 20th spot of TRO's list.


via NFL

San Francisco's secondary unit is an acceptable group, capable of getting the job done, if they can stay healthy. However, their job is made much easier by the rest of their defense. On its own, the Niners's secondary isn't bad, but it's not very good either. Everyone is, or should be, a huge fan of how Jason Verrett's career is finally taking shape after all of the hardships he's endured. Jaquiski Tartt is a capable player, who will make some splash plays, but sometimes has consistency issues, and they have respectable, but not overly daunting safeties in Emmanuel Moseley and K'Waun Williams. The Niners' biggest problem with this unit is injuries and depth.


via Brandon Todd / Carolina Panthers

The good news is that the Carolina Panthers secondary has improved this offseason. Jeremy Chinn took the League by storm his rookie year playing all over the field. This year, he will spend most all of his snaps at safety, where he is truly comfortable and can thrive. Donte Jackson should be healthy from battling turf toe all of 2020, and thanks to the additions of the first defensive player taken in this year's Draft, Jaycee Horn, as well as veterans A. J. Bouye and Rashaan Melvin, Jackson can fall back into more of a CB2 or even a nickel role will he will be faced with less pressure and can find more consistency. The bad news is, as the youngest team in the League, the Panthers may give up some big plays as they continue to grow. Troy Pride, Jr. and Stantley Oliver-Thomas provide for some shaky depth with the potential for upside that is to be determined.


via Kyusung Gong / AP Photo

The Chicago Bears's secondary will take a step back in 2021. Losing All-Pro Kyle Fuller would have that effect on most any secondary. The Bears will be left with hoping Jaylon Johnson maximizes the highs from his rookie season, and blocks out the lows, that Desmond Trufant has more left in the tank at 30 years old, and that superstar safety Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson can pick up the slack. Jackson will certainly continue to make big plays, but losing the security of Fuller locking down one of the sides of the field will create a gaping hole on this defense. Their defensive line will likely make the secondary's job easier, and this defense won't allow a ton of yards and points as a whole, but when analyzing this unit on its own, it lands at the 17th spot on TRO's list.


via Emilee Chinn / Associated Press

The Chargers will get a healthy Derwin James in 2021. That's enough to elevate this team's secondary from last year. They also should have Chris Harris, Jr. at full health, which should lead Chargers fans to anticipate more consistent production from him. Michael Davis and Nasir Adderley make for an average, but not terrible supporting cast. If this secondary unit can stay healthy, they will help this defense take an additional step in 2021, landing them at the midway point on TRO's list.


via GoDeacs

While the Cincinnati Bengals do not have a very good defense as a whole, allowing the 14th most passing yards in 2020, a lot of that is a product of the lack of pressure created by the front seven. Under a microscope, the Bengals have a fairly decent secondary. Jessie Bates III does not get the credit he deserves. He is a tier 1 safety, simply one of the best in the League, and a true ballhawk. While Bates is the star of this group, his safety companion, Vonn Bell, is no slump either. While the Bengals could do better on the outside, Trae Waynes, Chidobe Awuzie, Eli Apple, and Mike Hilton make for a decent rotation of cornerbacks, leaving this team with an above average secondary unit as a whole.


via ColtsWire / USA Today

The Indianapolis Colts had a surprisingly solid secondary in 2020. They were able to rejuvenate Xavier Rhodes after the worst season of his career in Minnesota in 2019. Rhodes looked a lot more like his old self in 2020, and his counterpart, Kenny Moore II had a nearly equally as impressive year. Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon are rather average safeties that, while they might not elevate this secondary, they both have a consistent enough floor to pair with the play of Rhodes and Moore which will prevent this unit from falling outside of the top half of the League.


via FoxSports

Minnesota might have made the most drastic improvement in their secondary from 2020 to now. Despite losing safety Anthony Harris to Free Agency, who has really emerged as a tremendous player, the Vikings still have All-Pro Harrison Smith controlling the back end, they replaced Harris with Xavier Woods, and they improved the area where they struggled the most, cornerback. The Vikings will have Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland locking down the outside while their young corners: Cameron Dantzler, Jeff Gladney, and Harrison Hand can continue to develop. While Peterson is coming off of one of the least productive years of his career, the Vikings's defensive scheme is better suited to maximize Peterson's talents while considering his advanced age.


via BucsWire / USA Today

Coming in at the twelfth spot of TRO's secondary rankings are the defending champs. We've said it before, winning the Super Bowl, and brining back all 22 starters, will keep your position groups from falling too far down the rankings going into the 2021 season. The Bucs found a gem in Antoine Winfield, Jr., who will certainly only continue to improve. Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting make for a fairly stout duo on the outside. Davis and Murphy-Bunting did have some lapses in coverage throughout the regular season, but really turned it on throughout the entire postseason. Look for this unit to play a little bit closer to the level that they did in the postseason, and less like they did throughout the bulk of the regular season where they allowed the 12th most passing yards in the League.


via SteelersNow

While the Steelers did lose Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, they still have an above average secondary, fringe top ten even. Minkah Fitzpatrick is an absolute animal. The way he is seemingly everywhere at once really shrinks the field for the rest of the defense. Fellow safety, Terrell Edmunds makes a nice pairing, as he is less of a ballhawk, but more of a tackling machine. Joe Haden has shown he can still compete at a high level as a CB1, and Cameron Sutton has really been coming into his own as of late, making the most of his snaps. Now, Sutton will have a clear-cut shot to be the team's CB2 along side Haden. TRO thinks he won't let that opportunity go to waste. Pittsburgh's biggest question at secondary in 2021 will be depth.


via the Athletic

It's might seem strange to rank the secondary group of the team that allowed the least passing yards in the League in 2020 at the tenth overall spot going into 2021, but hear us out. Jalen Ramsey very well might be the top corner in the NFL, but this secondary took some major hits this offseason. They lost John Johnson III and Troy Hill, who were vital components to the success of the Rams's pass defense. This group will still be good, contributing to top ten numbers in defending the passing game, but a part of that is influenced by Aaron Donald and company. Rams fans have to be thankful that they did retain Darious Williams to play opposite of Ramsey to make for an excellent cornerback duo. This will still be a good secondary because of those two, but they will not repeat as the best in the League.


via Getty Images

Before we dive into the Dolphins, we have to disclose that this article is being written and published before any Xavien Howard potential trade. If the Fins can some how mend feelings with Howard, they will have one of the top units in the League. Howard had a League-high 10 interceptions in 2020, and they were not dumb luck. He blanketed receivers and was seemingly everywhere. Opposite of Howard is Byron Jones who is a CB1 in his own right. This team has two clear-cut CB1s on the field at the same time, locking down the outsides of the field. The only thing keeping them from ranking any higher is safety play and nickel corner help.


via Daniel Kucin, Jr. / AP Photo

We all know about Washington's defensive line, and it deserves all the praise it gets. However, the stellar defensive line almost overshadows the top ten secondary the Football Team has put together. Kendall Fuller gets overlooked, but he is likely a top tier cornerback in this League. While this team lost Ronald Darby in Free Agency, who played fairly well in 2020, they replaced him with William Jackson III, which should prove to be a slight upgrade. They also get good, consistent safety play out of brute force Landon Collins. Kamren Curl is a little bit of a question mark at the free safety spot, but he's able to maintain adequate levels of productivity due to the guys previously mentioned.


via Associated Press

There are two cornerbacks that can challenge Jalen Ramsey for the bragging rights as best corner in the NFL, and Stephon Gilmore is one of them. The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year is still producing at an elite level. He's simply a technician who seems to run routes for opposing wide receivers, keeping them blanketed the entire way. Opposite of him is J. C. Jackson, who finished second in the League in interceptions in 2020 with nine. Jackson is explosive and very athletic. The two make for a top-notch pairing. The Patriots also went and added Jalen Mills who will thrive in this system as a supporting, depth player. At safety, Devin McCourty is still getting the job done, but he's coming off of one of his worst seasons, which makes sense as he is about to turn 34. He likely won't be improving, and fellow safety Jalen Phillips, is good, but not elite. Safety play is good enough in New England, in fact better than most, but not enough to enter the top five.


via Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports

In the last paragraph, we said there were two cornerbacks that are in the conversation along with Jalen Ramsey as the top corners in the NFL, and one of them was Stephon Gilmore. The other is Jaire Alexander. If TRO had to rank individual corners, it would probably go: (1) Ramsey; (2) Alexander; (3) then Gilmore, and Alexander is nipping at Ramsey's heels waiting for him to slip up. Quarterbacks try not to even look or throw Alexander's way. The problem for opposing quarterbacks is that Alexander is supported by outstanding safety play. Adrian Amos has been an absolute force the past couple of seasons, and Darnell Savage continues to improve into a nice, young player. Kevin King has been the weak link in this secondary, but Green Bay has brought in some fierce competition for King with their first round draft pick, Eric Stokes. When playing against this defense, it's best to try to get underneath this group and attack its linebackers, but when it comes time to test the secondary, keep it away from Alexander.


via Benjamin Soloman / Getty Images

The New York Giants' secondary surprised some people's expectations last season. The Panthers passed on paying James Bradberry after 2019, and he found a home in New York, where he had a career year. Bradberry is a football nerd's kind of corner. He's quiet, he's technical, and he's always in position. He doesn't rack up huge interception numbers, but that is mostly due to the fact that he's so good at making quarterbacks look elsewhere. They'll have a tougher time looking elsewhere this season because the Giants went and picked up Adoree' Jackson to play opposite of Bradberry. Jackson is explosive, fast, and will make those splash plays. The safety duo of Jabrill Peppers (barring any trade rumors) and Logan Ryan is one of the better pairings in the League. This is simply a complete unit where each individual member complements the others. The Giants have fit together a puzzle in the secondary, making them the fifth overall ranked group going into the 2021 season.


via David Richard / AP Photo

As good as Denzel Ward is, the Cleveland Browns secondary was rather pedestrian last year due to a lack of a supporting cast. Wisely, the Browns made that the highest priority this offseason. The team went and poached John Johnson III and Troy Hill from last year's top ranked secondary, and they used their first round pick on Greg Newsome II, who no one had slipping to 26th overall where the Browns were licking their chops. Cleveland will also get Greedy Williams back with a clean bill of health. This is a complete unit, riddled with premier talent.


via Ebony Bird

If you were to take each team's CB1 and CB2, assign them a numerical ranking 1 - 64, and then average out the ranking between the two on each individual team, the Ravens would be at the top of that list. That's the long way of saying they have the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are tremendous playmakers, they feed off each other, and they instill fear in offensive coordinators. Those two seem to have a knack for simply getting their hands on the football by any means necessary. Baltimore has quality safeties in Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott to keep things from breaking over the top. However, the lack of star power at the safety position will keep the Ravens secondary from advancing any higher than the three spot.


via Bill Wippert / Buffalo Bills

Going from the team with the best cornerback duo in the League to the team with the best safety tandem in the League, TRO awards Buffalo with the second best secondary going into the 2021 season. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde are two peas in a pod. They are both smart, instinctive, and physical players that firmly influence the entire Bills defense. What separates the Bills from the Ravens is that they have a third star in their secondary: Tre'Davious White. He is a top ten cornerback in the NFL, and he's capable with handling most receivers one on one, freeing up the safeties to help out Levi Wallace, who could use the support. The second most complete secondary in the NFL resides in Buffalo, and they are an additional corner away from challenging the throne.


via MileHighSports

Here we are, the number one spot of TRO's secondary rankings, the last defensive unit we will be discussing in this light before we kick off the 2021 season: the secondary of the Denver Broncos. Take a moment and let's break down who makes this unit up and what the front office has done this offseason to dramatically improve a unit that was dead in the middle of the pack last season. First, the Broncos swept up All-Pro Kyle Fuller from the Bears. Then, they drafted Patrick Surtain II with the ninth overall pick of the 2021 Draft. They also added productive corner, Ronald Darby to their roster. Behind Darby is capable corner, Bryce Callahan. Finally, they were able to keep All-Pro safety Justin Simmons from leaving in Free Agency. Alongside Simmons is an above average player in Kareem Jackson. This unit had a couple great pieces in 2020. They went and added some tremendous pieces this offseason, and now they have the deepest, most complete, and most talented secondary in all of football.


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