Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Richard Sherman Proves That He Hasn’t Lost a Step

Anwar Jamison
Sep 17, 2018 at 9:09 AM

When Richard Sherman signed a 3-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March, only days after being released by the Seattle Seahawks, the move didn't garner as much attention as it would have under normal circumstances. The 4-time All-Pro has consistently proven to be the best cornerback in the NFL, or Top 3 at worst depending on who's judging, but was recovering from surgery on his right Achilles, which he tore in November. In March, he had a minor surgery on his left Achilles as well. Concerns about his ability to fully recover while playing the demanding cornerback position significantly lowered expectations for his 2018 campaign. After two weeks of play, those concerns have been dispelled.

Sherman has rarely been targeted in the first two games against the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions. While some of that certainly can be attributed to the fact that the cornerback on the opposite side, second-year man Akhello Witherspoon, is relatively inexperienced, offensive coordinators and quarterbacks are going to take yards wherever they can get them. "Teams are watching tape and if they saw me getting beat on tape, they'd throw the ball over there just like they would anybody else. Stafford looked that way a couple of times and pulled the ball back," Sherman explained after Sunday's game. "I would have had 2 or 3 picks had he just let it go. The last play of the game if he would have threw, I read it, ran the route for him, I was waiting for him to throw it but he ran the other way."

Focusing on Sherman play after play is to watch a true master of his craft. On one play, he might be squared up directly in front of the receiver in position to jam him, only to instantly bail before the snap avoiding a block from a receiver on a running play that he's already diagnosed. On the very next play, he might actually jam him, making it extremely hard for the receiver to escape. Once the play is in motion, Sherman takes angles with geometric precision, always remaining on top of the receiver, but within quick closing distance in case the quarterback should dare to throw in his direction.

When asked if he's playing at the same level as he has in previous years, Sherman became animated, and slightly defensive. "I'm always at that level. If people think I'm not at that level, then they're just not watching tape." One can't help but wonder if he heard about the comments made last week by NFL Films Senior Producer Greg Cosell on KNBR 680's Gary & Larry. After the Minnesota game, when asked what he's seen from Sherman, Cosell replied, "He gets beat at times. He always has a tendency on quick slants to turn totally around." For someone who's lauded for his detailed film study, these comments seem bizarre. Every cornerback gets beat at times, but the numbers illustrate that no one gets beats less than Sherman. He's consistently led the NFL in that statistic, so that's an odd statement to make when asked about him. Also, in defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's defense, which Sherman also played in during his Seattle tenure, the cornerback is generally not responsible for a receiver once he runs a slant into the middle of the field when playing zone, so the corners routinely bail in that scenario to cover the deep third on their side of the field.

Cosell added, "Obviously everyone saw him get beat early by [Vikings Wide Receiver Stefan] Diggs on that sort of double move comeback route." Everyone also saw that that was the only pass completion that Sherman surrendered in Week One. After breaking up the only pass thrown in his direction in Week Two, the unofficial grand total of passes surrendered by Sherman in the first two weeks of the season is one.

"I think it's more rumors, it's more hearsay, people that aren't watching tape saying he had an Achilles, he's fallen off." Whether or not the rest of the secondary can rise to his level remains to be seen. But what is clear to anyone who's really paying attention is that over the first two weeks of the season, Sherman has painted his usual masterpiece, which means a blank canvas for teams looking in his direction going forward.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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