The Myth That is The Nickel Corner and Height Correlation

Cornerback. It's a primary position in the NFL. On a typical play you have 2-3 corners in the game. They're referred to as the Right CB, Left CB, and Nickel CB. So what is the definition of a nickel corner? Simply the 5th DB on the field (after 2 starting CB's and 2 S') and someone who is used mostly in obvious passing situations. The nickel is the 3rd CB on the depth chart. Occasionally you'll have a Dime CB. This is the 6th DB that is on the field. That simple.

Now that we're on the same page here let's get to talking about people's CB perceptions. All I hear are comments about how what we don't need is another "nickel" corner and we need a bigger guy and blah, blah, blah. So now that we've corrected the thought about what exactly IS a nickel CB, you all should be able to understand that a nickel corner isn't designated so simply by their height. The reason most nickel guys are on the sub 6 foot side is because they often cover the slot WR, typically a smaller WR, so it is thus typical that the position is manned by a similar size CB. Considering the only CB we have that is over 5-10 is Gamble, it's understandable why most think our team is full of "nickel" corners. In reality though, this just means that we don't have a corner with the talent to successfully man the 2nd starting CB position. If we take Janoris Jenkins (5-10), for example, we won't be taking another "nickel" corner unless he can't beat out Hogan or Munny for the 2nd corner spot. I highly doubt that even possibly the case; though, Hogan could be special, but we just don't know yet.

This is a link to a 2006 pre-draft article from ESPN that has quotes from CB's and GM's and discusses really well the differences between "smaller" corners and "bigger" corners.

Let's examine some of the points:

Immediately this jumps out:

"The optimum height [for a CB] is about 5-11," [Titans general manager Floyd] Reese said. "Many of the taller cornerbacks tend to get hurt."

"In a 10-year study of cornerbacks, [you] noticed that the taller cornerbacks usually don't make it."

[This is because] bigger cornerbacks tend to be more physical, which leads to more injuries. Bigger cornerbacks don't fear contact. That leaves them as targets sometimes.

Cornerback Jason Allen (drafted 16th overall by Miami that year and now playing for Houston) who is 6-1 had this to say prior to his draft:

"You have an advantage being taller and longer," Allen said. "If the ball is in the air, you have a better chance to get up and get it. If the receiver or the ball is a little further ahead of you, you can always use your length and height. The disadvantage is that a little, quicker receiver could give you a problem. If you are too physical, you could end up missing the little receiver."

"When you have to cover big receivers, it's a physical matchup," Allen said. "If I had a choice between going against Steve Smith or Terrell Owens, I would pick Terrell Owens. He's not going to be as quick. With a bigger receiver, you can get up in his face and be physical. With a smaller receiver like Smith, you almost have to play a Cover 2 with a cornerback underneath and a safety on top, and you are not going to be as physical after 5 yards." ... "Big corners like being physical with wideouts," Allen said.

Ozzie Newsome (general manager of the Ravens) agreed, saying "When it comes to corners, big is better because you also have to tackle receivers...and it's a big receiver league."

So it would seem that a big CB has it's ups and downs, which it turns out is NO different from any and every other NFL position. However, the way our league is placing more and more emphasis on big TE's and big WR's corner size is something a lot of teams are focusing more on. With J.Graham, M.Colston, R.White, J.Jones, T,Gonzalez, and M.Williams lighting up our division we could use another "big" CB to provide a good match up. But is this exactly true? Or do we just need another really talented CB on our roster? Or is it both?

Let's look at the height for some of the NFL's best CB's:

B.Flowers 5-9 A.Winfield 5-9 A.Samuel 5-10 C.Finnegan 5-10

B.Grimes 5-10 R.Barber 5-10 D.Robinson 5-10 D.Revis 5-11

J. Joseph 5-11 V.Davis 5-11 L.Hall 5-11 C. Bailey 6-0

Q.Jammer 6-0 C.Rogers 6-0 R.Mathis 6-1 C.Woodson 6-1

C.Tillman 6-1 C.Gamble 6-1 N.Asomugha 6-2 A. Cromartie 6-2

That's 20 CB's there. They are split nearly evenly "short" to "big". What I hoped to prove by this is that it truly is a skills position and not necessarily a height one. Ideally if we do take a CB in the 1st or 2nd round we hope that they'll be able to bring as much, if not more, skill to the team than Chris Gamble, regardless of their height. We want someone with the skill to eventually take over for Gamble when he reaches the point of retirement. Obviously whomever we take will depend not only on the importance of covering rival offensive stars, but also who can bring the most immediate talent and impact to our team.

And with that, my friends, I beg you to reconsider before you simply label someone a "nickel" back and on a final note I bid you all adieu!

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