IF YOU WANT TO SEE THE BEST YOUNG CORNERS IN THE NFL, KEEP AN EAGLE EYE ON PHILADELPHIA

September 22, 1996

Which team has the best pair of cornerbacks in football?

If you like Deion Sanders and Kevin Smith of the Cowboys, you'll
get no argument here, but after watching the job that
Philadelphia's Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent did on the Lions in
the Eagles' 24-17 win on Sunday, I would have to say that
Philly's cornerback tandem is right up there. And Taylor, 22,
and Vincent, 26, have their best football ahead of them. So
let's call them the best young cornerbacks in the league.

Look at what they accomplished on Sunday. The Lions came into
the Vet with a dangerous arsenal. At quarterback Detroit had
Scott Mitchell, who has been struggling this year but last
season threw for more yards than every other quarterback in the
NFL except the Packers' Brett Favre. His targets included
wideouts Herman Moore and Brett Perriman, who combined for 231
catches and 23 touchdowns last year. And of course there was
running back Barry Sanders to worry about, too.

For starters Emmitt Thomas, Philly's defensive coordinator, did
a very elemental thing. He said to Taylor, You take Moore, and
he said to Vincent, You take Perriman.

Moore is 6'4", 217 pounds, a long strider who likes to muscle
cornerbacks. Taylor is 6'3", 216, and he doesn't get muscled.
Vincent, a quick six-foot, 194-pounder whom the Eagles signed as
a free agent in the off-season after he had achieved near-Pro
Bowl status with the Dolphins, got Perriman, a "moves" type of
receiver.

That man-to-man coverage was to be employed whenever Moore and
Perriman lined up wide on opposite sides of the ball in the
three-receiver offense that Detroit uses most of the time. Zone
coverage, using a combination of linebackers and safeties, would
handle the third wideout, Johnny Morton--or either Moore or
Perriman whenever they moved into the slot.

The Lions threw eight passes to Moore when Taylor had him
one-on-one, and Moore caught only two of them, for 12 yards. And
in the first quarter Taylor cut off a drive on the Philly six
with an interception. Perriman hauled in only one of the six
passes thrown his way while Vincent was on him, a 34-yard post
on the Lions' last possession, when the score was 24-10.

You take away the outside with two men, and you can crowd the
inside, which was what the Eagles did. Detroit's yardage total
(233) was its lowest in two years, and afterward, when Thomas
was asked if it was, perhaps, asking a bit much to assign two
guys such serious escort duty, he smiled and said, "I felt they
could handle it. I just like the way they matched up against
them."

The best pair in football, Emmitt?

"Too soon," he said. "Bobby's only 22. He hasn't established
himself yet."

Taylor may be just a pup, but he's learning some new tricks from
his more experienced corner mate. "You have to understand what a
luxury it is, working with a guy like Troy every day," said
Taylor in the locker room after Sunday's game. "We watched film
together. He's taught me little things, like hand placement on a
receiver, how to press a guy."

Are you two the best pair in the game? "Well, I don't think
anyone works harder," said Taylor.

"I'd like to think that we're getting to be the best," Vincent
said.

"Taylor did a good job on me today," Moore said, "and I think
he'll keep getting better and better. I'd like to see [if he
can] cover crossing patterns on a shorter, speedier receiver.
But, of course, they've got Troy for that."

Lions coach Wayne Fontes must have been casting envious eyes at
those Philly corners--and at the rest of the Eagles' defense,
for that matter. Eagles quarterback Rodney Peete had a career
day against Detroit, completing 25 of 30 passes for 284 yards,
and so did young Lions receiver Chris T. Jones (nine catches for
121 yards). Tailback Ricky Watters had his best game as an Eagle
(27 carries for 153 yards). Philly's West Coast offense can be
highly effective against a front four that can't exert pressure
and a secondary with no speed, and that pretty much describes
the Lions' defense.

There were a lot of heroes for the Eagles, but those corners--
they were something special.

--PAUL ZIMMERMAN

Dr. Z's weekly Internet NFL preview is at
www.sportsillustrated.com

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO Taylor's only 22, but he went one-on-one with last year's leading NFL receiver, Moore, and all but shut him down. [Bobby Taylor and Herman Moore in game]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)