Keeping Sherman at left cornerback works well for Seahawks

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Richard Sherman

RENTON — Despite the fact that Richard Sherman did not show up on the stat sheet in Seattle's Week 1 victory over the Green Bay Packers, Pete Carroll praised the impact that the All-Pro cornerback had on the Seahawks defense.

The way Carroll sees it, if a team is willing to concede a good chunk of the field by simply not throwing Sherman's way, which is what the Packers did last week, then Seattle has an advantage in that it has less field to defend.

Sherman, however, is still having a hard time wrapping his head around that concept while he prepares for Sunday's game in San Diego.

“It's still taking me a while,” he said with a laugh. “It's still taking me a second to understand that. You want to be part of the game. You want to make plays and help your team win. If that means not doing anything, then apparently that's what I got to do.”

But while Sherman jokes about being bored — “Sherm's just talking to make you all laugh. He's never bored out there,” safety Earl Thomas explained — his uneventful day, and Aaron Rodgers' decision to simply never throw Sherman's direction, brings up an interesting conversation.

Some would argue that if Sherman is indeed the best cornerback in the NFL, the Seahawks should move him around to cover another team's best receiver. Why let one of your best and highest-paid players be so uninvolved in the game while the opposition just moves its top receiver to the other side of the field?

Well here's why: because it works for Seattle. It works really well, in fact.

Sherman almost never moved from his left cornerback spot last season, and the Seahawks had one of the best pass defenses in NFL history and won the Super Bowl. There's a reason teams generally play their best corners on the left, or the offense's right, side of the field, and that's because most right-handed quarterbacks prefer throwing to their right, including Rodgers, who in 2013 put up very good numbers throwing to the right sideline.

So yes, Rodgers was able to occasional hit Jordy Nelson on the other side of the field for completions, but if he's not willing to throw down his preferred sideline, and if the end result is just 16 points for one of the league's best offenses, that's a result Carroll will take every time, even if Sherman doesn't love it.

“If a team lets you know that they're not throwing the ball on one side of the field, that helps everybody that's playing pass defense,” Carroll said. “You know, if they would tell you before the game that they're throwing over here the whole time, that helps you.

“It's simply that, you just know where the ball's going. We can't bank on that totally, but after a while in a game it's pretty clear. When the underneath droppers know the quarterback's coming back there way, they might just get a little better break now and then, and I think as the game wears on and the story's told that it helps us some.

And sure, the Packers completed some passes on Byron Maxwell, but they never torched him over the top, and he also had an interception, his fifth in his past five regular-season games. Maybe if the Seahawks had Sherman and a huge weakness on the other side of the field, they'd feel compelled to move Sherman around, but that hasn't been the case.

“We've basically over the years played left and right, and really banked on the feel the guys get from playing on their side, it's different if you flip,” Carroll said. “It's not that can't do it, a lot of guys do it, but we've just kind of banked on it and never seen it be that lopsided that we needed to do something about it.”

That's why Sherman, despite wanting more action, isn't going to lobby Carroll to let him shadow a team's top target — though both he and Carroll admit he has in the past. Sherman wants more chances to make plays, but he also realizes that Seattle's defense works very well as it is, and he has faith in Maxwell to keep making plays should Philip Rivers and Chargers decide to avoid him again this week.

“No we don't do that,” Sherman said when asked if he tried to convince Carroll to let him move around. “Like I said before, that's a form of disrespect to your other corner, and we don't do disrespect. We have great players everywhere and you treat them as such. You don't disrespect your other guy by saying, ‘you can't guard him so I'll go over there and guard him.' That's a slap in the face.”

The good news for Sherman is that Rivers doesn't sound like a quarterback who's willing to give up throwing to one side. He tested Arizona's Patrick Peterson, another of the league's best corners, last week, and while he'll be smart about throwing to Sherman's side, Rivers said it's not wise to simply ignore one receiver on every play.

“You've got to be smart when you throw to their side,” Rivers said when asked about Sherman and Peterson. “But I just don't believe you can completely eliminate a side of the field. I'm talking from my standpoint, from a passer's point of view. I'm not saying teams that decided to do that shouldn't have, but I just think it's hard to just play on one side and be real successful.

“And I say that, too, because I think Maxwell is a heck of corner … You're bound to get a few completions over there, but it's not like they've got a stud on one side and a guy who's not any good on the other. If you just watch (No.) 41, you'd say, ‘Shoot, that guy's a good corner.'”

And even if Sherman has another boring day, he can at least take comfort in knowing that his competition for the mythical title of “best shutdown corner,” specifically Peterson and Darrelle Revis, also spent most of their time on one side of the field last week. As you might expect, Sherman noticed that those two, who have both publically challenged Sherman's claims of being the best, often using the argument that he doesn't shadow an opponent's top receiver, also stuck to one side of the field.

“Yeah, I did notice that,” Sherman said. “I noticed a few corners staying on their sides. That's how it goes sometimes, sometimes you've got to set the trend for people to follow.”

The trend Sherman is setting is actually anything but trendy. It's what Carroll has asked of his cornerbacks forever, and even if it might lead to a boring afternoon, the bottom line is that it works very well for the Seahawks.



By | John Boyle

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