NFL defensive backfields may be populated by many dynamic, young athletes, but the old guard will still lead the way. Veterans Charles Woodson and Ed Reed will headline the group of five ball hawks who will lead the league in interceptions this season:
Dashon Goldson, FS, San Francisco 49ers
Free safety Dashon Goldson is quietly becoming the most prolific playmaker in a deep and talented San Francisco 49ers secondary. Playing in a contract year will motivate Goldson to at least match 2011's six interceptions.
He will benefit from the tremendous pressure created by a powerful front seven, featuring rush end Aldon Smith and stellar inside linebacker Patrick Willis.
Coordinator Vic Fangio employs a lot of deep zone schemes, allowing Goldson to keep eyes on the quarterback and pounce on any errant throws in downfield coverage.
Kyle Arrington, CB, New England Patriots
Despite a humble beginning to life in the NFL, Kyle Arrington has snared eight interceptions since joining the New England Patriots in 2010.
The 25-year-old intercepted seven passes and broke up a further 15 in 2011. He has the size and opportunistic instincts head coach Bill Belichick likes for his varied mix of tight, zone coverages.
If the revamped Patriots' front seven can do a better job applying pressure, Arrington could enjoy a huge season.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
Dominique Roders-Cromartie was miscast as a slot corner for the Philadelphia Eagles during 2011. However, now that he is a starter on the outside, he can rebound, after failing to post a single interception last season.
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has moved the Eagles to a scheme featuring more press, man coverage techniques. That will suit Rodgers-Cromartie, as will lining up across from the superb Nnamdi Asomugha.
With opposing quarterbacks reluctant to test Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie will have plenty of opportunities to get his hands on the ball. Add in a pass rush featuring Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin and Trent Cole and Rodger-Cromartie could produce breakout numbers.
Charles Woodson, DB, Green Bay Packers
Ageing but still effective Charles Woodson has been moved to safety by defensive coordinator Dom Capers, according to NFL.com.
The switch is a great move by the Green Bay Packers and will enable Woodson to use his smarts and instincts as a dangerous, roving center fielder.
He has played multiple positions in Green Bay's secondary, but letting Woodson's experience quarterback an otherwise young unit, improves 2011's 32nd-ranked pass defense.
Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens
The classic deep-lying, secondary spy, Ed Reed continues to plague quarterbacks who fail to locate him in the coverage scheme.
Even at 33, Reed continues to steal his share of passes, having collected 23 interceptions in the past four seasons. He remains the league's most feared ball hawk and will be motivated to produce one more stellar season, as he attempts to cap his career with a Super Bowl.