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Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters were laughing and joking like old friends shortly after the start of their first day together at the Los Angeles Rams’ training complex.
The Rams’ opponents might not have that much fun this fall when they face two of the NFL’s best pass defenders in the same secondary.
The defending NFC West champions kicked off their offseason by acquiring bookend elite cornerbacks in two trades that were formally announced Wednesday. Talib and Peters say they’re thrilled to play under coordinator Wade Phillips on a defense undergoing an intriguing overhaul.
”These guys are special players Ray Nitschke Jersey ,” head coach Sean McVay said. ”They bring a great passion for the game. You can see these are both cerebral players, and then they have the physical talents to match up. Guys that love football, these are the types of guys we love to be around.”
Rams general manager Les Snead has created a seemingly stellar secondary after entering the season with the uncertainty of top cornerback Trumaine Johnson, slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and starting safety Lamarcus Joyner all heading for free agency.
They lost Johnson to a lavish deal from the New York Jets, but the Rams re-signed Robey-Coleman, franchised Joyner and swung trades for two cornerbacks with seven combined Pro Bowl selections to play alongside Joyner and safety John Johnson III in a potent starting lineup. Los Angeles even added talented veteran cornerback Sam Shields, who missed last season due to concussions, as a probable backup alongside 2017 starting cornerback Kayvon Webster, who has a long road back from a heel injury.
Peters has known for nearly three weeks that he was headed out of Kansas City, where he spent his first three NFL seasons. When he heard last week that Talib would join him with the up-and-coming Rams, the Oakland native was thrilled.
”Oh, let’s do it,” Peters said. ”For me, I get to have another All-Pro corner on the other side, so now you don’t know where you’re going to go. And then when you’ve got a safety like Joyner and then you’re adding Sam Shields and you keep Robey? Come on now. It’s just going to be fun. You’ve got to find a way. Pick your poison.”
Talib and Peters both paid attention last season when McVay and Phillips led this long-struggling franchise to its first winning season since 2003 and its first playoff appearance since 2004. After winning the Super Bowl two seasons ago under Phillips’ direction in Denver, Talib was eager to be a part of another potential powerhouse.
”I saw a bunch of guys having fun,” Talib said of watching the Rams last season. ”They were playing for somebody who they believed in. You watch half the teams in the league, they just go through the motions and kind of collect a check Martin Jones Jersey , but there’s another half of those teams, and playoff teams, they’ve got a coach who they respect, and whatever he’s preaching, he’s got guys believing that they can really go do it.”
Peters and Talib are two world-class talents with just enough apparent questions surrounding them to make them available to the Rams.
Peters, who was dismissed from his college team at Washington, argued with an assistant coach late last season with the Chiefs, leading to a one-game suspension. McVay and Snead are confident Peters’ competitiveness is the only reason for the trouble, and he intends to direct that energy toward the Rams’ goals.
”When we look back into the game, passionate players have always been the ones that got the bad rep of not being a team player and being selfish,” Peters said. ”That’s not the case for me. My ultimate goal is to be a winner. I was born a champion.”
Talib has been in scrapes with the law, his employers and opponents during his 10 professional seasons. His rivalry with receiver Michael Crabtree has attracted the most attention, but teammates also praise his loyalty and competitiveness. McVay, who is 20 days older than the 32-year-old Talib, expects the veteran to be an immediate team leader.
The additions came at a cost to the Rams, who had to trade defensive captain Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants to make room for Talib.
”It’s rare to be able to acquire two players of this caliber,” McVay said. ”So when the opportunity does present itself, you want to be ready.”
In the topsy-turvy NFC playoffs Authentic Ronnie Harrison Jersey , only the Falcons return from last year, and they sneaked in as the sixth and final team. They narrowly avoided the same fate as the Cowboys, Seahawks, Packers, Giants and Lions – all sitting this one out.
The top five seeds are newcomers, led by the Eagles. They are going with a backup quarterback and are making their first trip to the postseason party since 2013. The Vikings are back after a year away, hoping to become the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in its home stadium .
The five new teams went a combined 32-48 in 2016 but 59-21 this season, providing hope to all those franchises and fans who are already preparing for free agency and the draft.
The field features just two Super Bowl winners, the Rams at the turn of the century when they were based in St. Louis, and the Saints in 2010, when they upset the Colts and Peyton Manning.
The Rams, in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, host the Falcons on Saturday in the showcase of wild-card weekend. The Saints, who ended a four-year playoff drought, host the Panthers on Sunday.
Strength and weakness of each team:
1. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13-3). No Lombardis: lost Super Bowl 15 to Oakland in 1981 and Super Bowl 39 to New England in 2005.
Hope: The Eagles have the NFL’s third-ranked rushing offense with three productive backs: Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement. They’ll have to rely on them more to take pressure off QB Nick Foles and a passing attack that has struggled since second-year sensation Carson Wentz tore his left ACL in December, a major blow to the Eagles’ bounce-back season .
Nope: Foles isn’t Wentz, who was a leading MVP candidate when he got hurt. But the offense still has plenty of pop and talent Authentic Ronald Jones II Jersey , and Foles has the ability to get on a roll. He needs to develop more chemistry with receivers during the bye, be more consistent and avoid mistakes. Otherwise, the Eagles could fall into the trap that befell the Cowboys last year when Dallas became the first No. 1 seed not to reach the Super Bowl since 2013.
The Dope: ”We’ve got some good work the last couple of weeks with Nick, and we’ll go back and evaluate all of that. We have to get better in the run game. That helps any quarterback obviously, so we have to get better there. Then just taking a look at what his strengths are, strengths and weaknesses. Everything at this time of the year now becomes magnified even more going into the postseason.” – coach Doug Pederson.
2. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (13-3). No Lombardis: Lost Super Bowl 4 to Kansas City in 1970, Super Bowl 8 to Miami in 1974, Super Bowl 9 to Pittsburgh in 1975 and Super Bowl 11 to Oakland in 1977.
Hope: The defense , with all due respect to QB Case Keenum and the job he’s done. The Vikings ranked second in the league in both fewest rushing yards and fewest passing yards allowed, so there’s not really a one preferred way to attack them. No team gave up fewer points, either. With Pro Bowl picks at each of the three position groups yet a selfless attitude that’s kept individual players from chasing splashy plays or padding statistics at the expense of the scheme, coach Mike Zimmer’s unit will be a challenge for any opposing QB, especially in Minnesota at raucous U.S. Bank Stadium.
Nope: There aren’t many culprits, but Kai Forbath will certainly be a person of interest. Vikings fans still wince thinking about stunningly missed field goals by Gary Anderson (1998) and Blair Walsh (2015) that cost their team seemingly certain postseason victories. Forbath has been better than his predecessor Walsh, but he has missed eight extra points in 23 games with the Vikings. He also missed five of 15 field goals over the last seven games of this season.
The Dope: ”Guys have to understand that you have an opportunity here to do some great things and you have to take advantage of that opportunity. If you don’t, you’ll probably regret it for the rest of your life.” – DE Brian Robison.
3. LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-5). Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 34, beat Tennessee 23-16 on Jan. 30, 2000 Derwin James Color Rush Jersey , while based in St. Louis.
Hope: The NFL’s most surprising comeback story shows few signs of ending prematurely. L.A. has the talent and smarts on both sides of the ball, with the league’s highest-scoring offense led by QB Jared Goff and MVP hopeful RB Todd Gurley. The Wade Phillips-led defense remains a strength with DT Aaron Donald disrupting offenses weekly. Rookie coach Sean McVay has outsmarted his older foes with impressive regularity.
Nope: They can’t act like they’ve been here before, because they haven’t. Only six Rams have any playoff experience whatsoever, easily the fewest in the current field. McVay, Goff, Gurley and Donald have never been under the postseason spotlight, where every mistake is magnified. So the big question is whether they’ll continue to thrive under pressure or crater.
The Dope: ”There is a lot of value in experience. This is a very humbling business. … You try to learn from the experiences that you do have and not try to repeat the same mistakes twice. But I think, for a younger team, we’ve demonstrated a maturity throughout the course of the year.” – McVay, who was born 20 days after the Rams last hosted a playoff game in Southern California on Jan. 4, 1986.
4. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-5). Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 44, beat Indianapolis 31-17 on Feb. 7, 2010.
Hope: Although Brees passed for his fewest yards (4,334) since joining the Saints in 2006, he was as efficient as ever, setting a single-season record with his 72 percent completion ra http://www.officialusafootballs.com/buffalo-bills
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