- Seth Wickersham, ESPN The Magazine senior writer
In the third quarter of their Week 8 win over the Redskins, the Lions aligned two receivers, Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson, side by side. Washington countered with Cover 2: Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was alone opposite the two wideouts; strong safety LaRon Landry stood deep behind him. The defensive scheme just begged for QB Matt Stafford to throw a bubble screen to Burleson. After all, Johnson would block Hall while Burleson would be left isolated in the open field against Landry. A shifty wideout squaring off against a red-blooded strong safety? Easy yards.
Not in 2010. At the snap, Landry shot from the secondary as if he were skateboarding downhill. Stafford threw the screen anyway, and Landry -- who ranks sixth in the NFL with 66 solo tackles through Week 11 and is one of the league's best defenders -- instantly flattened Burleson for a one-yard gain.
Seth Wickersham examines the rise of athletic strong-safeties, who are changing the way NFL defenses are aligned.