ATLANTA – There is only a handful of the NFL’s 32 teams fortunate enough to have All-Pro cornerbacks, and only two have a pair.
In Jacksonville, Jalen Ramsey and A. J. Bouye each had their one and only All-Pro seasons in 2017, helping the Jaguars all the way to the AFC title game, where they fell to the Patriots.
The other is this year’s Los Angeles Rams, who boast Aqib Talib (two All-Pro campaigns, his first with the Patriots in 2013 and the second with the Broncos in 2017) and Marcus Peters, who was All Pro in Kansas City as a rookie in 2015 and again in 2016.
Under almost any other circumstances, you’d say huge edge to the Rams in Sunday’s Super Bowl, but it obviously didn’t help the Jaguars topple New England last year.
Still, the Rams' corners are quite a bit more accomplished than the Jaguars'.
They also come with much more complex stories.
To say that Talib and Peters have been two of the NFL’s bad boys on and off the field is a bit of an understatement.
As a junior at University of Washington, Peters was suspended for one game for a sideline tantrum, and later that season kicked off the team for “disciplinary reasons.”
But there was no denying his talent, and the Chiefs used the 18th pick in the draft to select him.
The decision clearly paid dividends as Peters earned All-Pro accolades his first two seasons in the league, but he also earned a reputation for being difficult to get along with and highly undisciplined, often ignoring his responsibilities to freelance and try and make big plays.
There were a number of big plays, but there were also enough costly mistakes and troublesome moments to cause his play to fall off in the 2017 season and the Chiefs to say "we’ve had enough" and deal him to the Rams last spring for a lot less than the pick they used to acquire a special talent.
Talib has been a well-liked and respected teammate at all four of his NFL stops in Tampa, New England, Denver and L.A., and his commitment, play and discipline have never been challenged.
But off the field he has had his problems.
Talib was involved in a fistfight with teammate Cory Boyd at the NFL’s rookie symposium in 2008. A year later, Talib was accused of battering a taxi driver, and in '11 he was charged with firing a gun at his sister’s boyfriend — charges later dropped due to a lack of evidence.
In 2016, he supposedly was shot in the leg at a Denver area nightclub, until it was later revealed that he had lied to police and accidentally shot himself with his own gun.
The obvious question would appear to be — can they be trusted? — but ironically, all anyone has asked Talib about all week has been his outstanding leadership qualities.
It's actually puzzled even Talib a bit.
“You keep asking about these leadership skills and stuff," he said. "I don’t really know about what skill? I just go be myself, so myself was the same 8 years ago, 10 years ago, in college — you know what I’m saying? — in high school.
“I’m just going to be myself — that’s it.”
I can tell you he is extremely well regarded by former teammates Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, with each singing his praises this week.
While Talib appears outgoing, warm and approachable, Peters has been much more reserved, low-key and at times almost sullen this week.
But he insists he’s a good fit with these Rams.
“I think it’s been dope since I’ve been here," he said. "The organization welcomed me in. The team has been excellent. It’s one of the most close-knit teams I’ve been around, so it’s been cool.”
Neither has played their best football this season — with Talib spending half of it on I.R. with an ankle injury and Peters struggling mid season with a calf problem and often looking lost against some of the game’s better receivers.
Nonetheless, many believe the outcome of Talib and Peters vs. Edelman, Gronkowski and Chris Hogan could dictate a winner Sunday, and it should be fascinating to see which Talib and Peters show up.