--DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Darrelle Revis, FS Devin McCourty, SS Duron Harmon, RCB Brandon Browner. Backups -- CB Kyle Arrington, CB Alfonzo Dennard, CB Logan Ryan, SS Patrick Chung, DB Jemea Thomas, SS Nate Ebner, S Tavon Wilson, CB Justin Green, S Kanorris Davis, CB Daxton Swanson, S Shamiel Gary, DB Travis Hawkins, CB Malcolm Butler.
New England's secondary has obviously been the talk of the offseason, with the Patriots swapping out Aqib Talib for Revis. That's obviously an upgrade and with Revis a year removed from a torn ACL, he's expecting more out of himself than he put forth in 16 games played last fall in Tampa Bay. Revis will take over the man-coverage, matchup role that Talib found success in when healthy.
Browner, who will serve a four-game suspension to open the year, will also add to New England's preferred man-coverage packages. The big corner didn't do much moving around in Seattle, so that will be a concern, but he offers size that head coach Bill Belichick hasn't had in the past. McCourty is a Pro-Bowl caliber free safety and leader in the back end who should be opened up to more playmaking options with Revis upgrading the coverage on the outside.
Harmon is penciled in as the starter at the other safety spot, but is by no means a sure thing. The second-year former third-round pick was a backup to Steve Gregory a year ago and drew praise from the coaches for his communication skills. He's talked about improving his man coverage this summer, but still doesn't fill the role of a true, tone-setting strong safety.
While Browner is the presumed starter opposite Revis when he's eligible to play, returning starter Dennard and budding second-year player Ryan might have something to say about that. Dennard has been serviceable as a No. 2 corner in each of his first two seasons, but coming off shoulder surgery hasn't practiced yet this spring. Arrington is a well-paid slot corner that the coaching staff trusts even if he's prone to a few ugly coverage hiccups over the course of the season. The veteran is certainly better on the inside than when forced outside, but still isn't without his warts.
Chung returns to the team that drafted him after a couple years in Philadelphia, but now is considered more of a special teamer and backup than the starter he was as a second-round pick in his first tour with the team. Ebner is technically another backup safety, but the former Ohio State rugby player is really just a core special teamer, a role in which he had 11 special teams tackles last fall. Wilson is a third-year second-round pick who has never been able to crack a role on defense and could be on borrowed roster time despite decent special teams contributions. Thomas was brought in as a versatile sixth-round pick who did just about everything in the secondary during his time at Georgia Tech. That versatility will certainly endear him to Belichick and the coaching staff.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
--DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Keenan Lewis, FS Jairus Byrd, SS Kenny Vaccaro, RCB Champ Bailey. Backups -- FS Rafael Bush, CB Patrick Robinson, CB Corey White, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, FS Vinnie Sunseri, SS Marcus Ball, CB Rod Sweeting, CB Trevin Wade, CB Terrence Frederick, CB Derrius Brooks, SS Ty Zimmerman, FS Pierre Warren, CB Brian Dixon.
Lewis led an injury-decimated secondary with four interceptions and Vaccaro was an impact player from the first day of training camp until he fractured his ankle in the second-to-last regular-season game. They will again be a big part of what defensive coordinator Rob Ryan does although they will have more help in Byrd and Bailey, two ball-hawks who should help create many more takeaways after the Saints had just 19 a year ago. Bush has had a couple of nice seasons as a backup and will play a lot in the three-safety lineups Ryan utilizes. Robinson, a former first-round draft pick, appears more comfortable in the nickel. White struggled at times last season when forced into the lineup because of injuries, but could be ready to turn the corner. At 6-foot-3, Jean-Baptiste will get a chance to join the new breed of big cornerbacks after being chosen in the second round of the draft, while Sunseri, a fifth-round draft pick, will get a shot to play in certain roles and on special teams.
NEW YORK GIANTS
--DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, SS Antrel Rolle, FS Stevie Brown, RCB Prince Amukamara. Backups - CB Walter Thurmond, CB Trumaine McBride, CB Jayron Hosley, CB Charles James, CB Zack Bowman, CB Bennett Jackson, CB Ross Weaver, S Quintin Demps, S Cooper Taylor, S Nat Berhe, S Thomas Gordon, S CJ Barnett.
The Giants significantly upgraded their defensive secondary with the addition of Rodgers-Cromartie, whom head coach Tom Coughlin has already declared will draw the opponent's top receiver every week. Thurmond, who comes over from the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, will take over in the slot. Last year, Thurmond allowed zero touchdowns as the slot receiver and came up with one interception in that role according to Pro Football Focus. Hosley, a third-round draft pick in 2012, has likely played himself off the team, as two injury-filled years plus a looming four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on substance abuse haven't endeared him to the organization. Bowman has flown under the radar, but his special teams prowess as a gunner along with his solid showing as a cornerback could be more than enough to get him a roster spot. Jackson, a sixth-round draft pick from this year, will probably end up on the practice squad due to the numbers. Brown will be looking to recapture his form from 2012, when he led the Giants with eight interceptions and the league with 307 interception yards. So far so good for Brown, who missed last season after suffering a torn ACL. Taylor, a second-year player and Berhe, a rookie draft pick, will likely battle for the final spot at safety if the Giants keep four on the roster. Taylor could have the advantage as the Giants could potentially be hoping to sneak Berhe onto the practice squad.
NEW YORK JETS
--DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Dee Milliner, CB Dimitri Patterson, SS Calvin Pryor, FS Antonio Allen. Backups - CB Kyle Wilson, CB Ellis Lankster, CB Darrin Walls, CB Johnny Patrick, CB Dexter McDougle, CB Brandon Dixon, CB Ras-I Dowling, Jeremy Reeves, CB Lowell Rose, S Dawan Landry, S Jaiquawn Jarrett, S Josh Bush, S Brandon Hardin, S Rontez Miles.
Two years ago, the Jets had the best cornerback pair in football. Now, with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie gone, the Jets are left to hope they can get through this season with the inconsistent yet promising Milliner and the injury-prone, unproven Patterson before Milliner and/or rookies McDougle and Dixon, whom the Jets took in the third and sixth rounds, respectively, emerge as legitimate starters. The Jets need Milliner, in particular, to build on an impressive final month as a rookie because the veteran backups are fringe role players at best.
Amazingly, the Jets are in better shape at safety, a position that coach Rex Ryan has largely ignored for most of his tenure. The hard-hitting Pryor has already begun establishing himself as a team leader and should provide the Jets an immediate physical and vocal presence at the back of the secondary. Allen worked with the starters during minicamp, an acknowledgement by Ryan that he possesses the upside and big-play capability that Landry lacks. Landry will still be a valuable mentor and sounding board as well as a key backup in a unit that otherwise lacks experience.
--DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- RCB Tarell Brown, LCB Carlos Rogers, SS Tyvon Branch, FS Charles Woodson. Backups -- CB DJ Hayden, CB Chimdi Chekwa, CB Keith McGill, CB TJ Carrie, CB Taiwan Jones, CB Chance Casey, CB Neiko Thorpe, CB Jansen Watson, S Jonathan Dowling, S Brandian Ross, S Shelton Johnson.
The Raiders brought in Brown and Rogers from the 49ers, the third time in three years they've brought in potential veteran starters in free agency. Both are highly intelligent and came off productive seasons, more so than last year's starters Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins. Strong safety Tyvon Branch was lost in the second game because of a broken leg, which robbed him of the opportunity to play with Woodson, but also left Woodson to play as single deep safety because the team didn't trust Ross, who struggled as a starter. Hayden is in a "prove it" phase because injuries have robbed him of time to develop after being the No. 12 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
Chekwa has improved steadily, but rookie draft picks McGill and Carrie will be given every opportunity to surpass him on the depth chart and possibly play a role in some packages. Dowling opened some eyes in the team's mandatory minicamp as a seventh-round draft pick who has good ball skills as a deep safety.
--DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Bradley Fletcher, RCB Cary Williams, FS Malcolm Jenkins, SS Nate Allen. Backups - Earl Wolff, Nolan Carroll, Brandon Boykin, Jaylen Watkins, Chris Maragos, Keelan Johnson, Davon Morgan, Roc Carmichael, Curtis Marsh, Daytawion Lowe.
Fletcher and Williams, who were signed as free agents before the 2013 season, were solid performers last year. They are long and physical and adept at press coverage, which is the key to Bill Davis' defense. Boykin has quickly developed into one of the league's better nickel corners. He was second in the league in interceptions last season. But for his small stature - he's 5-foot-9 - he'd probably be starting on the outside. Ex-Dolphin Carroll was brought in to push Fletcher and Williams. At best, he wrestles a starting job from one of them. At worst, he will provide corner depth the Eagles didn't have last year and strengthen their special teams. Jenkins was the team's key offseason defensive acquisition. He's a former corner with excellent coverage skills that can cover tight ends and slot receivers. Wolff started six games as a rookie last season before hurting his knee. He will push Allen for the other starting safety job. Watkins is a versatile rookie who played both corner and safety at Florida.
--DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Ike Taylor, RCB Cortez Allen, FS Mike Mitchell, SS Troy Polamalu. Backups -- CB William Gay, CB Brice McCain, CB Antwon Blake, CB Shaquille Richardson, SS Will Allen, SS Shamarko Thomas, FS Robert Golden.