I’m sure some people want to read full-game analysis or a breakdown of Colin Kaepernick’s erratic play in the playoffs. When it comes to football, it’s always best to fully focus on players, offensive game plans, and defensive schemes. Whenever a storyline occurs before a game or some kind of generality the public keeps preaching about, it turns me off. I’ll still break down why Richard Sherman is speaking the truth, when he says he’s the best. Then I’ll get into why he’s a new revelation in the NFL.
It’s always been a constant argument about Sherman, if he truly is the best cornerback. Obviously his arrogance turns people off, along with having the luxury of playing with the best defense in the league. That luxury is playing with the best all-around safety in the league in Earl Thomas and a safety that hits like a linebacker in Kam Chancellor. Then you can include that Sherman is 6 foot 3, which puts him up there as the tallest cornerback in the league.
There is no denying that Sherman has support playing beside excellent teammates, while having genetic gifts. What sets him apart from other cornerbacks is his tenacity and ruthlessness. You don’t see a cornerback, who can disrupt a receiver’s route so efficiently on a consistent basis. The way he plays bump-and-run coverage can’t be taught. It comes down to being physical, while not being that excessive with the contact so he doesn’t get penalized. That frustrates wide receivers and it eventually gets to quarterbacks. Eventually, you will see quarterbacks not even bother looking to throw his way knowing that it will be a loss of a down or potential turnover. Colin Kaepernick should have had that mindset.
Does he get away with holding at times? Of course he does, it’s been well documented. Roddy White said the Seattle secondary has “perfected holding” on NFL Network and you didn’t see one analyst even try to argue his claim. As long as Sherman or any players from Seattle’s secondary aren’t getting caught, why bother changing up your style of play? The NFL favors the offense in this current age, with many rules favoring quarterbacks and receivers.
Sherman’s versatility is another element to his game that makes him so special. We’ve seen how good he is in man coverage. It has gotten to the point, where they practically leave him on an island at times similar to what Oakland did with Nnamdi Asomugha. If they switch their defense to zone coverage, he’s done that effectively as well. He’s had more opportunities to make plays with zone coverage and played a crucial part in having eight interceptions for the second consecutive year. That’s one thing that separates him from Darrelle Revis. While Revis is still a top five corner, he never adjusted well to playing zone coverage this year.
If you want to run down the list of cornerbacks that are considered elite, here are clear explanations on why Sherman is better. Aqib Talib and Joe Haden are too inconsistent to be considered the best. Haden was on a tremendous stretch of shutting down top receivers, before Alshon Jeffery and Antonio Brown torched him repeatedly. He tends to get too physical at the line of scrimmage and that leads to speedy receivers getting past him. Talib has struggled to stay on the field at times this year, along with being penalized far too often. He hasn’t mastered the art of holding quite like Sherman.
Brent Grimes return from an Achilles injury this year was unbelievable. He didn’t miss a beat in Miami and finally gained the league wide recognition he’s deserved for so long. Unfortunately for him, he’s five foot ten and misses too many tackles. While his fundamentals are sound, his lack of size and strength are too much for him to overcome in run support. Grimes athleticism and ball skills are off the charts, which is why he can be considered as the best ball hawk in the league. His lack of size holds him back from being the best all-around cornerback.
Darrelle Revis and Patrick Peterson are the last two cornerbacks that should be in the discussion. Revis was clearly rusty at times this year and struggled adjusting to zone coverage. Speed receivers can give him issues as well, especially if they run a double move because Revis is very aggressive. He came on strong late in the year ending up with 11 passes defensed. I’m expecting next season to show why he remains to be one of the premier corners. Patrick Peterson is the closest competitor to Sherman for the top spot.
The issue with Peterson simply comes down to longevity. This is the first true year that he’s been considered elite. Don’t let the numbers fool you in 2012, when he had seven interceptions. He was getting burnt repeatedly and people were questioning his work ethic at playing cornerback. Some believed that he was too busy trying to be a playmaker on special teams and even trying to be more involved in Arizona’s offense. That changed in 2013 and now he is right below Sherman. Let’s see what he does in 2014, before putting him over Sherman.
Even when quarterbacks try to avoid him, he knows how to get to the ball. How does a shutdown corner end up with eight interceptions? That shows how savvy he is in wanting to make game changing plays. Of course, you can add in factors like Seattle’s pass rush forcing bad throws or quarterbacks wanting to get their star receiver involved.
He embraces contact by being a great run defender. Many corners are either constantly being manhandled at the line of scrimmage or take poor angles while being in run support. That’s not the case with Sherman, who holds down his side of the field and doesn’t let running back breaks outside. Run support tends to be forgotten about when discussing cornerback play. That’ll never make sense to me, since it remains to be an important asset to have. The divisional round showed how teams can control the game by leaning on the running game.
Darrelle Revis gave offensive coordinators nightmares in 2009-2010 based on how dominant he was. You couldn’t throw towards his direction; otherwise it would be a loss of down or turnover. Richard Sherman has become that player over the past year and half. Besides TY Hilton and Roddy White, nobody has managed to beat Sherman deep. You can make the argument on those plays that he expected help from Chancellor, especially White’s touchdown last year in the playoffs.
It’s time to accept him as a superstar and the best cornerback in the league. Drew Brees didn’t bother testing him last week. Colin Kaepernick threw his way twice the entire game. Kaepernick played a solid game and didn’t make any questionable throws, until the interception straight to Chancellor. He decides to test Sherman in the most critical moment of the game and it became a moment that he’ll regret for the next six months. Sherman deflects another pass (57 PD’s in three seasons), which leads to a game ending interception. You want to see the best players get tested? That’s what happens.
As for the post-game interview, it was absolutely brilliant. Nobody can deny that he was disrespectful in that moment, even for someone who loves pro wrestling and mixed martial arts. It was an awkward moment, yet Sherman brought something out that we don’t see very often. So many NFL players are politically correct nowadays giving the same predictable response on a weekly basis. There are exceptions like Steve Smith, DeAngelo Hall, Roddy White and Sherman. People always want to hear the truth from players on how they feel about the opposing team or a certain play.
They get the truth from Sherman and now complain about it? The backlash that he received was baffling. Are all football players supposed to be these toned down athletes that have to be role models at all times? They can’t be emotional or show passion in believing in themselves, when that’s what players thrive on? How about people constantly complaining about their respective team not playing with fire and being relentless? Those are the questions I give to you, if you are offended by his post game interview. Sherman didn’t swear or call Crabtree any derogatory names. He spoke his mind stating how he’s the best.
If you don’t like arrogant players, then that’s your preference of choice. Don’t go around saying Sherman is an idiot or label him insane. He’s emotional just like all football players are because the sport is so brutal. The only difference is that he decides to speak his mind, which has proven to be beneficial towards his career. Even if you bash him, he has your attention and has become the new “media darling”.
My theory will always be if you back up your trash talk on a weekly basis, you have the right to make any statement or claim. Sherman is a prime example of that theory. The Stanford graduate is the real deal and will be a superstar for years to come. You can pontificate on how Sherman is an egomaniac or how Peyton Manning is going to embarrass him.
We’ll see in two weeks at Metlife Stadium. Regardless of what happens, Sherman continues to not only be the best cornerback in the league but also enters a rare breed. That breed is someone, who can play as well as he talks. Not many players have done that in recent memory, especially for cornerbacks. They claim to be a shutdown corner, yet are on the receiving end of a highlight reel touchdown. Sherman is the NFL’s new revelation and will be making headlines for years to come that will either make you embrace him or despise him. That what happens when you are the best at your position and aren't afraid to speak your mind.
You can follow me on twitter at @Allen_Strk