It was difficult to know what to expect when the New England Patriots completed a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at last year’s trade deadline to acquire cornerback Aqib Talib in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.
Talib was a talented player, but previous off-the-field issues were a bit of a concern. Looking back at the deal, it’s been one of the best transactions the Patriots have made since their last Super Bowl championship in February 2005.
The former University of Kansas star has strengthened a New England secondary that struggled against the pass and lacked a legitimate, shut-down corner prior to his arrival.
Talib is enjoying his time in New England, and recently told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald that his NFL career didn’t start until he came to the Patriots.
“I’ve been in the NFL since ’08,” Talib said. “But I’ve really been in the NFL since November of 2012.”
He also added that “It’s totally different [in New England]. It’s big games after big games. It’s Monday nights after Sunday nights, playoffs. Tom Brady is walking around here. There are countless people and media in the locker room. This is the NFL right here.”
In Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos, Talib will be one of the key figures in the Patriots’ game plan to stop Peyton Manning‘s historic offense that set NFL records for most points scored and passing touchdowns, among others.
Talib will likely be assigned to star receiver Demaryius Thomas, but given his size and versatility, the Patriots corner could find himself covering several different pass-catchers.
Despite the challenges that Manning and the talented Broncos offense pose, the Patriots will feel confident in their ability to beat Denver for a second time this season and earn a Super Bowl berth. Much of that confidence stems from Talib’s ability to play at an elite level against the best competition.