NTFeature 


Last week Not the Face of the Franchise presented the Offense for the 2017 Team of ntfof.com.  It isn't mandatory reading or a requirement to enjoy / strongly disagree with this piece.

You may want to check it out — here.  

It goes someway to explain the over-arching principle of the team and the reasoning behind player inclusion.

This is the promised follow-up installment.  It may, like the prior NTFeature, take some positional liberties in order to shoe-horn individuals into a discernible scheme.  

On paper, grass or artificial turf — this defensive unit may not work.  There may be deficiency.  We can realistically question their ability to blend as a collective, functioning NFL defense.

Happily ntfof.com doesn't have to concern itself with such things.

We just have to present their names and hope — as the 2017 season unfurls — the players don't make us look silly.

Part Two : The Defense


Defensive End

DeForest Buckner

(San Francisco 49ers)

When the 49ers drafted DeForest Buckner with the seventh overall pick in the 2016 draft nobody took much notice.

The pick wasn't underwhelming.  It wasn't a bland or uninspiring selection.  It certainly wasn’t considered a reach.

It was more that it just made sense.  The 49ers were devoid of defensive talent.  Buckner was an obvious fit.  He represented a needed upgrade.

This is not to suggest there is anything mundane about DeForest Buckner.  He is an explosive talent that marries huge stature with incredible speed.  His lithe muscular frame is perhaps what will become the desired prototype at his position.

He is already very, very good.

It is not out-with the realms of possibility that he — if spared injury setbacks — will continue his natural development and become one of the very best in the business.


Nose Tackle

Eddie Goldman

(Chicago Bears)

This defense is a 3-4 scheme.  

That was a choice influenced by nothing more than personal preference.  It is not necessarily a judgment on other defensive designs.  Much has been written and discussed on the relative merits of opposing schematic tendencies and defensive positioning.  

There are several ways of building a successful NFL defense.  In 3-4 formation, there is a sure-fire way to build a bad one.  It simply doesn't work without the requisite talent and presence at the nose tackle position.

Eddie Goldman was drafted by a Chicago Bears team in transition.  They were moving to a 3-4 defensive scheme and he, after a successful college career at Florida State, was seen as a natural building block.

Goldman is a tenacious competitor who combines brute strength with respectable mobility.  He, at 6-foot-4 and upwards of 320 pounds, is able to be both a disruptive attacking force and offer robust protection against the run.

Entering only his third year as a professional he has already endured and overcome significant injury.  Eddie Goldman will be looking to improve in 2017.  If the un-fancied Chicago Bears defense can achieve any level of success it seems certain that Goldman will have played a pivotal role. 

He is also the unmistakeable anchor of the ntfof.com defensive line.


Defensive End

Taco Charlton

(Dallas Cowboys)

The Dallas Cowboys can be a fantastically frustrating proposition.  On the offensive side of the ball they are sublime.  They have an incredible talent core that is poised to evolve and improve.

Defensively they are questionable.  In terms of pass rush they can be positively anemic.

In an attempt to address this glaring need the Cowboys used the twenty-eighth pick of the draft to acquire Michigan’s Taco Charlton.

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It is unclear how much game time Charlton will earn in his rookie year.  But he has an opportunity to work himself into a contending team..  Under revered co-ordinator Rod Marinelli — in full sight of a vocal fanbase starved of pass rushers — he has a real chance to make a name for himself.

And that name is Taco … who doesn't want to root for that ?


Cornerback

Janoris Jenkins

(New York Giants)

The NFL can be a very responsive league. As teams find creative ways to maximize their offensive impact players an even greater premium is placed on the defensively elite.  

A good cornerback is a hugely useful tool.  A great cornerback can go a long way to making your franchise successful.

The New York Giants are a high-profile organization with household name talent.  Even the layman fan will be acutely aware of Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and the lesser Manning brother.  They may struggle to identify Janoris Jenkins.  

He is one of the rarest commodities in the modern game : a player who does everything well.  He is not a situational or single dimensional player.

He can cover.  He can tackle.  He is a ball hawk.  He is an exuberant, energetic trash-talker with the skill-set to warrant his talk.  He has an earned arrogance to his play.

His playmaking ability is befitting of a star player.  The Big Apple spotlight is perhaps drawn to the larger egos of the locker-room.  Janoris Jenkins will continue to operate in the shadows ultimately removing his opponents from the limelight.


Outside Linebacker

Vic Beasley

(Atlanta Falcons)

This edge rusher is the cautionary tale for those who write, evaluate and contribute to sports media.

Following his rookie season there were many comfortable writing him off as a failure.  His minimal production was seen as scant return for an eighth overall draft selection.

Beasley was moved to outside linebacker.  Everything changed.

The improvement could be put down to position change.  It may also be attributed to better physical conditioning.  He may simply of needed a full calendar year to acclimate to the professional ranks.

He has all the intangibles.  He is a dominant player who — at times — looks simply unstoppable.


Inside Linebacker

Sean Lee

(Dallas Cowboys)

A third Dallas Cowboy on this team ???

Yes.

Is his inclusion a clear signifier of a lack of imagination ? Is it merely a cop-out to post a link to a previous NTFeature ?  Is that itself a cunning ruse designed to minimize need for new writing and draw reader attention to the Archives ?

Possibly …

But Sean Lee makes this team for another — altogether legitimate — reason. 

Sean Lee is the type of defensive lynchpin this team needs.  In a unit heavy on ‘pack leaders’ someone has to be the quiet methodical contributor.  He has the gravitas to sit amongst the dominant personalities.  He leads by example rather than boisterous ranting.

Sean Lee is the type of guy the other players would want on their team.


Inside Linebacker

David Harris

(New England Patriots)

A lot has been written about David Harris this off-season.  His inclusion on this team may not have been possible a few weeks ago.  David Harris was the heartbeat and considered leader of the Jets defense.  They chose to cut him loose.

He is now a Patriot.  

He is a veteran who was, certainly within the last year, beginning to look every one of his thirty- three years of age.  He was still capable of decent performance but not to his high standards of yesteryear.

He is now a Patriot.

There is an inevitability to this.  Bellchick is going to coax whatever remaining brilliance is still within David Harris.  Discarded by the Jets he will find re-invention.  Whether it is in a slightly amended or drastically reduced role is somewhat immaterial.

David Harris is probably going to the Super Bowl.   


Outside Linebacker

Whitney Mercilus

(Houston Texans)

Draft analysts were positively giddy when the Houston Texans selected Jadeveon Clowney.  Their plan to pair him with J.J Watt on their defensive line was fervently anticipated.  This duo were set to wreak havoc on the National Football League.

There have been some teething problems.  Injuries to one— or both — of these defensive pillars has repeatedly robbed the viewing public.  When available they are an awesome spectacle.

At outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus certainly profits from their active participation.  It would be reductive to suggest that he is a passive beneficiary.  Undoubtedly Watt and Clowney are incredibly disruptive and require significant attention.  Where Mercilus excels is in how he fits around them.

He is a strong physical threat in his own right.  He has to be accounted for.  But the evolution of Whitney Mercilus is borne from predatory instincts.  He is able to negotiate angles of attack with ease.  There is a controlled finesse in how he slices through the manufactured gaps in the offensive line.

The Houston Texan defense is the envy of many franchises.  Whitney Mercilus is not the biggest name on the unit but he is a considerable part of their success.


Cornerback

Darius Slay

(Detroit Lions)

Cornerback is a daunting job.  They are called upon to nullify some of professional sport’s finest athletes.  Some rely on their physicality.  Others seem to exhibit an almost supernatural understanding of where the ball is going to be.

When reviewing the work of Darius Slay there is a remarkable consistency to his play.  Consistency is perhaps an accurate yet unsuitable term.  Darius Slay is persistent.  He is relentlessly active.  It goes beyond reliability — he is engaged in the act of continued disruption.  He is a nuisance.  

A highly talented, incredibly skilled and athletic nuisance.


Strong Safety

Kam Chancellor

(Seattle Seahawks)

To suggest Kam Chancellor is just a thug who hits hard would be an incredible disservice to a veteran player widely respected in the NFL.  His team value him to the extent they have, in the last few days, pledged to pay him a guaranteed $25 million dollars (that could rise to $38 million) over the next three years.

This is not a financial investment in a hatchet man.  He is not a dirty player intent on injuring opponents.

But it has to be said … when Kam Chancellor tackles he does so with an unbridled enthusiasm.  There is a certain level of gusto involved.

Kam Chancellor appears to love to tackle.

It really is something to behold.

He is a tremendous physical specimen.  He is clearly tactically astute and commands respect throughout the league.  He is a leader within a highly competitive and remarkable Seattle defense.

He is an incredible football player.

And I would rather be hit by a Ford F150 than Kam Chancellor. *


Free Safety

Harrison Smith

(Minnesota Vikings)

Harrison Smith is, for want of a better term, a lurker.  

He just seems to be there.  Lurking.  In the right spot.

It isn't luck.  He knows what he is doing.

Smith is a great athlete who is amongst the best open-field tacklers at the safety position.  He is so frequently in position to intercept you may begin to suspect he emits a gravitational field.  

He has emerged as a vital cog in the Minnesota Vikings defense.  This is a team that is clearly proud — with justification —  of their defensive unit and its notable progression.  They have, with contract extension and financial investment, signaled their intent to make this the foundation of their franchise.  

As a twenty-eight year old entering his sixth professional season there is every reason to believe Harrison Smith is quietly and efficiently lurking toward his prime.


  • This should not be considered an ad for Ford.  Or a criticism of the F150.  I would be happy to accept one if offered …  

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