Much has been made about the New England Patriots acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib. Many applaud the Patriots for trading for the shutdown corner who should be a welcome addition to a weak defensive secondary. Others question the acquisition as Talib was serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs and has a history of legal trouble. One thing for certain is that in his first game with the Patriots Sunday he’ll be thrown straight into the fire.
Talib’s task on Sunday will be to stop a receiver who has consistently been one of the league’s best. After Peyton Manning was forced to sit out for the 2011 season due to neck surgery, the Indianapolis Colts decided to rebuild their team. After an abysmal season, the team cut ties with several offensive players that had made them a perennial power including Manning, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, and Pierre Garcon. But one veteran they decided to keep was wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
Wayne was drafted by the Colts in 2001 and has played his entire career with the team. With Manning as his quarterback he was selected to five straight Pro Bowls between 2006 and 2010. After a down year for the Colts and Wayne in 2011, he looks to be back to form with his new franchise quarterback Andrew Luck and looks to be headed back to the Pro Bowl in 2012. Stopping this star will be Talib’s task Sunday.
Recent times have been tough for Talib. After being drafted in 2008 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Talib quickly became a star on the defense. He led all rookies with four interceptions in 2008 and improved over the next two year recording five picks in 2009 and six in 2010. In 2010 he was selected as the Defensive Player of the Year by the NFL Alumni Association. Talib looked as though he’d be a perennial All-Pro for the foreseeable future.
But things started to unravel last season. After playing the first 13 weeks he was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. After recovering from the injury, he was suspended by the NFL on October 13 for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. According to Talib he made the mistake of using Adderall without a prescription. The punishment was a four-game suspension which ended on Monday.
Now Talib’s back and the Patriots are hoping that he’ll return to his prior performance level. Injuries and poor play by the defensive secondary have hampered the team’s pass defense making it one of the worst in the league over the last two years. They’ve already made adjustments for Talib moving Pro Bowl cornerback Devin McCourty to safety to make room for their new addition to play alongside Kyle Arrington.
Talib will be thrown into the fray quickly as he attempts to stop one of the best receivers in the league who receives passes from the best young quarterback in the league. The inability by the Patriots offense to score touchdowns in the fourth quarter this season has resulted in several losses because of the defense’s inability to prevent touchdowns. The Colts have become one of the most feared passing teams in the league so if the Patriots get out of this matchup with a win, it’ll be because Talib was successful in stopping Wayne.