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FOOTBALL 101: Two Backs, Four Backs, Five Backs-a-Nickel!

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; By TCU Dan - SaintsReport.com Staff Writer - 12:52 am CST If contradiction was ever a word without validation, the NFL is the arena where such an instance has become the norm. Terms like contract, security, and future have gone ...

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Old 05-03-2004, 04:02 PM   #1
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FOOTBALL 101: Two Backs, Four Backs, Five Backs-a-Nickel!

By TCU Dan - SaintsReport.com Staff Writer - 12:52 am CST

If contradiction was ever a word without validation, the NFL is the arena where such an instance has become the norm. Terms like contract, security, and future have gone from mainstays to red flag clichés. More than ever, the free-agency era NFL is a business (an ugly one at that).
And while the emergence of free-agency and salary cap limitations has affected the NFL off the field, it has also made its mark on the field. The game of football at the pro level, until maybe 10 years ago, was not a league of trends and copycats. It was simply a Darwinistic society where the fittest survived. Dynasties such as the 49ers, Cowboys, and Steelers of their eras thrived and dominated. Big-business philanthropists would view such a long, extended era as the glory days. No teams are more grateful for the emergence of free agency than small-market franchises.

Now-days teams seem to change face at the flip of a coin. The league-wide formula “du jour� has become that of the previous Super Bowl winner. Ironically enough, it is this collective mentality that prevents copy-cat teams from reaching the Super Bowl the next season. Such short-sightedness on the part of front offices and coaches is what fuels the continuation of this process.

So if trends come and go like the summer solstice, what logical consistency has or will emerge any time soon?

The answer can be found in the most prevalent trend over the last five years, broadly defined as speed. It started with the offensive emergence of the St. Louis Rams. They introduced the Super Bowl to the spread offense and the NFL to the effects of speed on that side of the ball. The Rams of ‘99 dared teams to stop them and teams responded with more speed, this time on defense.

Positions such as cornerback and defensive end have become a premium because they are usually the fastest positions in their respective corps. Traditional middle linebackers have taken a backseat to converted outside linebackers who excel in sideline-to-sideline pursuit rather than straight-ahead run stuffing. Fading are the positions of fullback and the blocking tight end. In-the-box safeties are becoming less and less sought after in favor of rangie, oversized cornerbacks.

But the defensive position that has thrived the most from the speed trend is that of the cornerback. More specifically, the nickel-back.

For the unacquainted, “nickel-back� refers to the third cornerback on a team's depth chart usually used to combat multiple (meaning more than two) wide receiver looks from an offense. Where a starting-caliber nickel was once a defensive luxury it has now become a requirement for success.


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