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30 Mar 2015

Film Room: Richard Sherman

by Cian Fahey

One year ago, Richard Sherman was the talk of the offseason following his interview after the NFC Championship game and the Seattle Seahawks' dominant victory over the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. This offseason, the focus has shifted away from Sherman as he proved to be relatively quiet during his team's return to the Super Bowl. Instead, most media attention was drawn to the team that beat Sherman's Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots.

With the Patriots, there are always a variety of storylines to analyze. After the Super Bowl victory this year, one of the most prominent storylines was Darrelle Revis' importance to their championship and his impending free agency. At 29 years of age, Revis eventually departed the Patriots to return to the team that originally drafted him, the New York Jets. He signed a huge contract that reinforced his status as one of the best defensive backs in the NFL.

Despite the protests of players such as Patrick Peterson and Joe Haden, Revis and Sherman have been considered the two best cornerbacks in the NFL for a long time now. Separating one from the other has always been a matter of personal preference or philosophical thoughts on what is the best style for a cornerback to play.

When the Jets signed Revis, they paid him like they were getting the best cornerback in the NFL. However, when I looked at his season through the Pre-Snap Reads analysis method, it became apparent that Revis had suffered a notable dropoff in performance. Revis was still very impressive last year, but he dropped a tier from the one that he and Sherman had shared previously.

Therefore, with the NFL focused on Revis this offseason, the question becomes if Sherman has quietly solidified his spot as the sole best cornerback in the NFL.

To figure that out, we need to put Sherman's 2014 season through the Pre-Snap Reads analysis method.

Explaining the Process

Qualifying Plays

Plays that count:

  • Every snap that has the cornerback in man coverage no matter where the ball is thrown.
  • The above includes sacks, quarterback scrambles and plays where the defensive back has safety help.
  • Every snap in zone coverage where a one-on-one situation is naturally created. For example, a sideline route from a wide receiver who lined up directly across from the cornerback when that cornerback is covering the deep third in Cover-3.

Plays that don't count:

  • Screen plays. Even if the receiver isn't part of the screen, these plays do not count.
  • Plays where either the receiver or cornerback doesn't follow through his whole assignment.
  • Zone plays that don't create one-on-one situations. Any ambiguity in this area will disqualify a play.
  • Any prevent coverage situations.
  • Receptions in the flat without a route run.
  • Running plays, including designed quarterback runs.

Failed Coverages

The ball does not have to be thrown in the defensive back's direction for the coverage to fail. This is NOT an analysis of how many completions the cornerback allowed; that can be found elsewhere. This is an analysis of how good his coverage is on any given play.

Failed coverages can come at any point of the route, but it is dependent on where the players are on the field in relation to the quarterback. Typically, defensive backs must be within arm's reach for underneath/intermediate routes. On deeper passes, there is greater leeway given to the defender.

Failed coverages can be subjective. They must be determined by the situation considering the length of the play and other such variables.

Shutdown

This category is reserved for those plays when receivers would have to make superhuman catches to beat the coverage. The best example of this is when receivers line up wide and try to run down the sideline, but the defensive back gradually guides them toward the sideline, suffocating the space they have in which to catch the football. If a receiver is on the white sideline, he is shut down.

In position

This is the opposite of a failed coverage. In order to be "In position," a defensive back has to be in a position to prevent a relatively well-thrown pass to his assignment.

Individual Matchups

This section tracks how Sherman performed against individual receivers throughout the 2014 season. Only receivers with at least four qualifying snaps against Sherman were included on the chart.

No. Wide Receiver Team Sucessful Snaps
vs. Total Snaps
Success Rate
1 Brian Quick STL 6/6 100%
2 Terrance Williams DAL 4/4 100%
3 James Jones OAK 4/4 100%
4 Brandon LaFell NE 4/4 100%
5 Jarrett Boykin GB 17/18 94%
6 Brandon Lloyd SF 8/9 89%
7 Demaryius Thomas DEN 8/9 89%
8 Michael Floyd ARI 19/22 86%
9 Kenny Britt STL 6/7 86%
10 Pierre Garcon WAS 6/7 86%
11 Davante Adams GB 11/13 85%
12 Anquan Boldin SF 5/6 83%
13 Odell Beckham NYG 13/16 81%
14 Jeremy Maclin PHI 8/10 80%
15 Eddie Royal SD 4/5 80%
16 DeSean Jackson WAS 4/5 80%
17 Andre Holmes OAK 4/5 80%
18 Michael Crabtree SF 6/8 75%
19 Tavon Austin STL 6/8 75%
20 Jordy Nelson GB 3/4 75%
21 Julian Edelman NE 3/4 75%
22 Keenan Allen SD 6/9 67%
23 Dwayne Bowe KC 6/9 67%
24 Dez Bryant DAL 10/16 63%
25 Kelvin Benjamin CAR 10/16 63%
26 Malcom Floyd SD 3/6 50%
27 Emmanuel Sanders DEN 3/6 50%
28 John Brown ARI 1/5 20%

Weekly Breakdown

This section breaks down Sherman's season on a game-by-game basis.

Week 1: Green Bay Packers
Total qualifying snaps: 21
Failed coverages: 2
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 19

Despite having Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback, the Packers infamously decided that Rodgers should not even look at Sherman's area of the field through four quarters of this game.

Based on what Sherman did on the field in this game specifically, and in past games, that was a good decision.

Different elements can be considered in a discussion of this strategy, from the impact on the rest of the offense to how the Packers simply put their least talented receivers against Sherman. However, it's hard to criticize Sherman because he was able to consistently cover every single player that came his way. He spent most of the day covering Jarrett Boykin, a limited receiver who couldn't match up to Sherman's fluidity in space or his strength in tight quarters. Boykin came free just once on 18 qualifying snaps, when he beat Sherman's press on a corner route. That wasn't the most significant play from this game, however. Instead, the most significant was Sherman's other failed coverage, which came against rookie Davante Adams.

Yes, Adams gets the better of Sherman on this play. Still, this play highlights just how impressive a player the cornerback is. This is one of just two failed coverages Sherman had that day, and Adams requires an extended play and multiple breaks in his route to create any kind of separation.

As is usually the case, Sherman lines up at left cornerback in press coverage on this play. Adams was rotating on and off the field in this game, so this is one of the few snaps he saw against Sherman. The receiver initially breaks inside of Sherman at his release. Sherman gets his hands on the receiver instantly and is able to stay on his shoulder as he angles infield.

When Adams turns on his curl route, Sherman is standing on his inside shoulder in perfect position to cover any potential pass that is thrown his way.

When Rodgers gets to the top of his drop, he can see that everyone on the field is covered. As such, he breaks the pocket and runs into the right flat. Adams reacts naturally by running towards the right sideline to give Rodgers an option. However, Sherman fluidly turns to run with him so he is always in position to cover the out route.

Before Adams gets to the sideline, he aggressively shifts his weight into Sherman before planting his right foot to turn upfield.

This movement plays on Sherman's aggressive nature as the cornerback attempts to jump underneath Adams for a potential interception. Instead of working back to his quarterback, though, Adams pushes downfield off of his right foot so that he is wide-open down the right sideline for a potential touchdown. Rodgers would have had this play, but he kept his eyes to the left side of the field at all times because of the intimidation of throwing to Sherman's area of the field.

These were the kind of circumstances the Packers needed to create separation against Sherman in this game. On regular plays that weren't extended by the quarterback, Sherman simply dominated.

Week 2: San Diego Chargers
Total qualifying snaps: 20
Failed coverages: 7
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 13

At this point of the season, Sherman was still living in infamy because of the attention he drew at the end of the 2013 season. The flames of that infamy only grew when Keenan Allen seemingly exposed him by catching a variety of passes against the cornerback. This wasn't a good game for Sherman, but it's not really proper to say that Allen "exposed him."

Sherman's failed coverages were split between Allen, Malcom Floyd, and Eddie Royal. The relative success of these receivers primarily represented the intelligent game plan of the Chargers rather than any fatal weaknesses in Sherman's ability that could be exploited.

The Seahawks play a huge amount of Cover-3, relying on the intelligence and ability of their individual defenders to pattern-match whatever routes the opposing offense uses. While they don't take this approach on every single snap, it's still intelligent for the opposing offense to try and attack the yellow areas of the field in the above image when throwing at Sherman.

Allen beat Sherman three times in this game, and two of his receptions came in the yellow areas of the field.

Allen is able to release relatively easily from the line of scrimmage as Sherman attempts to contact him with his inside arm while Allen releases towards the outside from the start of the play. This gives Allen the chance to run down the sideline without being squeezed out of bounds. It's possible that Allen pushed off slightly at the top of his route, but it was a subtle movement that should be commended.

Allen has to do most of his work through the break at the top of the route. He shows off the footwork and quickness to create separation before evading the linebacker working underneath. This is a tight-window throw for Philip Rivers because of the coverage call by the Seahawks. A perfectly timed and perfectly placed pass from the quarterback gives Allen the chance to catch the ball cleanly.

On Allen's second reception against Sherman, the Seahawks weren't playing Cover-3.

On this play, Sherman is in man coverage against Allen as the left cornerback. He is pressing at the line as the Seahawks play Cover-1 against the Chargers' five-wide formation. Allen begins his route by turning his shoulders towards the sideline and angling his feet in that direction. With great haste, he turns back infield to run a slant route. That movement catches Sherman off guard.

Sherman turns towards the near sideline while Allen runs directly infield so the cornerback has no chance to prevent the reception.

Allen's footwork and quickness allows him to have success on these routes against Sherman. He also creates just enough separation on a double-move early in the game down the sideline because of his footwork and quickness. However, Sherman still got the better of him more than he was beaten. In fact, Floyd had more success against Sherman, although one of his successful snaps came when Sherman was knocked to the ground by a teammate.

Week 3: Denver Broncos
Total qualifying snaps: 16
Failed coverages: 4
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 12

Emmanuel Sanders gave Sherman problems because of his well-rounded ability. His quickness, footwork, and strength through his routes allowed him to stress Sherman's ability in space. Sanders didn't create any big plays down the field against Sherman, but he was able to get open on two crossing routes and a curl route for decent gains.

One of Sherman's failures against Sanders came on a crossing route when he played outstanding coverage but Manning simply fit the ball into his receiver against tight coverage.

Sherman had much more success against the more linear Demaryius Thomas.

Week 5: Washington
Total qualifying snaps: 15
Failed coverages: 3
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 12

Because Sherman is 6-foot-3 and around 200 pounds, it's always interesting to watch how he approaches smaller, faster receivers. Against Washington, he got an opportunity to show off his skill set against one of the best deep threats in the NFL, DeSean Jackson. Despite Jackson's deep speed, Sherman lined up in press coverage against him for all but one of his five qualifying snaps.

Understanding that he couldn't run with Jackson, Sherman instead looked to disrupt the receiver aggressively early in the route before using his positioning and size to stay on top of his routes.

On this play, Sherman lines up in press coverage against Jackson. He steps into the receiver with his inside foot and punches Jackson in the chest with his inside hand at the snap. Jackson is significantly lighter than Sherman, so this punch had a significant impact on the receiver. With that delay, Sherman has time to turn towards the sideline and open his hips to run on top of Jackson as the receiver releases into the seam.

From there, Sherman needs to hold his positioning while running with Jackson at full speed.

Sherman overplays the seam route to stay on top of Jackson. This reroutes the receiver back towards the sideline. From here, Sherman is in trouble because Jackson has only empty space into which to run. Jackson does appear to be gaining on Sherman, but the mammoth cornerback shows off enough acceleration and speed to stick with him down the field before the ball can be delivered.

Jackson would have eventually come open on this play, but the initial disruption at the line of scrimmage and the rerouting down the seam took so long that the receiver never really had a chance of getting the ball.

Week 6: Dallas Cowboys
Total qualifying snaps: 21
Failed coverages: 6
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 15

With Calvin Johnson hampered by injury for much of the year, an argument could be made that Dez Bryant was the best receiver in the NFL last season. It was between Bryant and Antonio Brown, at least. Regardless of where Bryant ranks in terms of production and talent, his skill set stresses every aspect of a cornerback's ability.

Bryant is the kind of receiver who can dominate opponents at the catch point, whose catch radius extends wide around his whole body (instead of just from his shoulders up), and who can create separation with subtle movement or sheer speed.

Sherman is one of a very select few cornerbacks in the NFL who are built to match all of the different facets of Bryant's game.

He has the size to compete with Bryant at the catch point. He has the strength to run with him through his more aggressive routes. He has the fluidity to adjust with him through his breaks. He has the speed to stay with him to different levels of the defense. Sherman (like Stephon Gilmore, Keenan Lewis, and others) offers all of the physical ability with the coverage ability to match up well to Bryant.

Of course, that doesn't mean that any of those defensive backs can shut Bryant down.

Sherman gave up a handful of plays to Bryant as the duo faced off in one of the more fascinating individual battles that can exist in the NFL. He repeatedly won on curls and sideline routes, with one crossing route also proving successful while working against Sherman from the slot. Bryant worked the sideline a lot in this game, with Sherman covering four of seven routes successfully.

On one of his failed sideline coverages, Tony Romo and Bryant connected an what was essentially an indefensible play for the cornerback.

Week 7: St. Louis Rams
Total qualifying snaps: 11
Failed coverages: 0
Shutdowns: 2
In position: 9

Against Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, and Tavon Austin, Sherman was able to be very aggressive and completely eradicate those players from the Rams' passing game.

Week 8: Carolina Panthers
Total qualifying snaps: 10
Failed coverages: 6
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 4

This was the worst game of Sherman's career in terms of Pre-Snap Reads' cornerback numbers. He opened the game by giving up a short out route to Jerricho Cotchery from off coverage, before struggling to handle rookie Kelvin Benjamin.

Benjamin is one of the least consistent receivers in the NFL. He struggles to run through his routes and fails at the catch point on a regular basis. Unfortunately for Sherman, this was one of the very few occasions when Benjamin played to his best for an extended stretch.

Benjamin showed off the physicality and athleticism to create separation against Sherman on occasion down the field, but his biggest plays came on outlandish receptions.

For the first of these plays, he ran a deep in route that extended across the field when Cam Newton broke the pocket. Sherman was in position to break on the ball underneath for what could have even been an interception, but Newton threw the ball high so Benjamin could fully extend and pull it in.

On the second of these plays, Benjamin simply runs a seam route against Sherman after lining up on the left side of the offense. Sherman plays the coverage perfectly and is ultimately brackets Benjamin with Earl Thomas when the ball arrives. However, Newton's pass is placed perfectly so that Benjamin is the only receiver who can catch it. The receiver's frame simply makes it impossible for Sherman to get to the ball before him.

This was a game to forget for Sherman, but it wouldn't be the last time that he would see Benjamin.

Week 9: Oakland Raiders
Total qualifying snaps: 15
Failed coverages: 1
Shutdowns: 2
In position: 12

Sherman gave up a comeback route to Andre Holmes on his very first qualifying snap, but proceeded to shut down his receivers thereafter. The highlight of his day came when he intercepted Derek Carr by anticipating a back-shoulder throw to his receiver.

It helped Sherman that Carr's throw was inaccurate.

Week 10: New York Giants
Total qualifying snaps: 19
Failed coverages: 4
Shutdowns: 1
In position: 14

The Giants weren't afraid to send Odell Beckham over to Sherman's side of the field. The rookie stressed Sherman as much as any receiver has, even though the corner's coverage numbers were still very impressive on the whole. Sherman was able to contain Beckham in what proved to be one of his best performances of the year.

However, Beckham did get him badly for a big play when he ran a double move deep down the field. Eli Manning was comfortable throwing at the cornerback too, although he forced one pass that resulted in an interception because Sherman was able to shut down Beckham at the catch point.

Week 11: Kansas City Chiefs
Total qualifying snaps: 12
Failed coverages: 3
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 9

Sherman spent most of this game on Dwayne Bowe. Bowe is an under-appreciated receiver who causes plenty of defensive backs problems in coverage with his well-rounded athleticism. However, Bowe is the type of receiver that Sherman does well against because he can match the receiver's athleticism and size.

Week 12: Arizona Cardinals
Total qualifying snaps: 21
Failed coverages: 5
Shutdowns: 1
In position: 15

Sherman split his time between the Cardinals receivers in this game. There was very little of note that emanated from this game, but rookie wide receiver John Brown showed off his potential by freeing himself from Sherman on a number of occasions. Brown was a very impressive rookie, and he fits the prototype of the kind of receiver that has caused Sherman problems in the past, including players such as T.Y. Hilton and Titus Young.

Week 13: San Francisco 49ers
Total qualifying snaps: 18
Failed coverages: 2
Shutdowns: 3
In position: 13

Although the 49ers re-tooled their wide receiving corps this year and brought in Steve Johnson -- a player who has caused Sherman problems in the past -- this proved to be an easy game for the cornerback. The 49ers simply lacked the quickness or long speed to consistently trouble Sherman no matter what routes they ran.

This game made the opposition's receivers look very old.

Week 14: Philadelphia Eagles
Total qualifying snaps: 11
Failed coverages: 2
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 9

Sherman never moved from the left side of the defense, and all of his qualifying snaps came in press coverage. The Eagles offense was overwhelmed for most of this game, so it was always going to be difficult for them to test Sherman. Jeremy Maclin was able to beat him twice, but Sherman covered Maclin for most of the game so the cornerback was able to win the matchup more often.

Week 15: San Francisco 49ers
Total qualifying snaps: 10
Failed coverages: 3
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 7

Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, and Brandon Lloyd each beat Sherman once on crossing routes, but for the most part he had another easy outing against the 49ers receiving corps.

Week 16: Arizona Cardinals
Total qualifying snaps: 13
Failed coverages: 4
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 9

During their first matchup of the season, Sherman completely shut out Michael Floyd. However, the second matchup proved to be much more interesting, even though Floyd was relying on Ryan Lindley to provide him with adequate service.

On this play, Sherman aligns deep off the line of scrimmage at the snap. He had initially been covering Larry Fitzgerald out wide, but Fitzgerald motioned so that he was behind Floyd in the slot. This pushed Sherman deep, as the Seahawks were playing Cover-3. When the play begins, Floyd runs towards Sherman before simply arcing his route past his outside shoulder. Sherman was late to turn and run with Floyd so the receiver was able to easily create separation downfield.

That separation was ruined by Lindley, whose pass arrived too far outside and not far enough downfield. Floyd should still have made the catch, but an accurate pass here would have resulted in a touchdown.

Lindley cost Floyd a touchdown there, but provided a perfect throw to negate Sherman's coverage on another occasion.

This time Sherman lines up in press coverage at left cornerback across from Floyd. He aggressively runs with the receiver when Floyd enters his route down the sideline and turns his head back to look for the football early in the play. Sherman has played perfect coverage and is in position to stop the ball if it is thrown. However, Lindley puts the ball in the only spot that Sherman can't get to it.

He places the ball so high above the cornerback that Floyd has to reach up for it and pull it in at full extension.

Week 17: St. Louis Rams
Total qualifying snaps: 13
Failed coverages: 3
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 10

Sherman completely shut down the Rams receivers when they first faced off. On this occasion, the Rams were able to have more success, but barely. Sherman was beaten for just short gains underneath for all of his failed coverages.

Divisional Round: Carolina Panthers
Total qualifying snaps: 12
Failed coverages: 1
Shutdowns: 2
In position: 9

Kelvin Benjamin abused Sherman during the regular season, but Sherman got his revenge on the rookie in the playoffs. Sherman had an interception when he adjusted to a wayward pass that was directed towards a different receiver, and he should have had a second interception when he broke on a slant route brilliantly.

Benjamin didn't beat Sherman once throughout the whole game. His closest chance came when Newton took a shot towards his receiver in the end zone, but Sherman was able to aggressively disrupt Benjamin at the catch point, forcing him to land out of bounds.

NFC Championship Game: Green Bay Packers*
Total qualifying snaps: 15
Failed coverages: 2
Shutdowns: 1
In position: 12

* It should be noted that the all-22 footage on NFL Rewind was missing for some plays in this game.

Sherman's rematch with Mike McCarthy's Green Bay Packers went much like the matchup in Week 1. Aaron Rodgers decided to test Sherman early in the game with a deep shot to Davante Adams, but Sherman made an exceptionally impressive play on the football to come up with an interception.

Sherman is covering Davante Adams. The receiver had assumed the number three receiver role from Jarrett Boykin by this time in the season. Adams runs a decent route down the sideline to get free, but Aaron Rodgers is very late on the throw. Sherman is able to adjust to the throw after initially settling outside of the end zone. He is able to snatch the ball above his head before precisely keeping both feet inbounds.

This is the kind of play that you simply can't make against Sherman. He's too big, too fast, and his ball skills are too impressive.

Super Bowl: New England Patriots
Total qualifying snaps: 12
Failed coverages: 2
Shutdowns: 0
In position: 10

After Jeremy Lane's interception, and subsequent torn ACL and broken arm, the Patriots went after Tharold Simon. Sherman was basically ignored, but his effectiveness was still impressive considering he was playing through a significant shoulder injury.

Although Sherman's regular season wasn't as impressive as seasons past, his playoff stretch proved to be outstanding as he repeatedly shut down receivers and found the football in the air.

Full-Season Breakdown

Total qualifying snaps: 285
Failed coverages: 60
Shutdowns: 12
In position: 213
Sherman's Success Rate for the Season: 78.9 percent

Although Sherman's game-to-game consistency during the 2014 season wasn't what it was in the past, his consistency from season to season has been sustained. This separates him from Revis, who posted a 72.5 percent success rate while showing off notable new flaws. Sherman posted an 81 percent success rate in 2012 and a 78.2 percent success rate in 2013. The differences between those numbers are negligible.

Position Breakdown

Qualifying Snaps at Left Cornerback: 244
Failed Coverages at Left Cornerback: 44
Success Rate at Left Cornerback: 82 percent

Qualifying Snaps at Right Cornerback: 16
Failed Coverages at Right Cornerback: 6
Success Rate at Right Cornerback: 62.5 percent

Qualifying Snaps in the Slot: 25
Failed Coverages in the Slot: 10
Success Rate in the Slot: 60 percent

Qualifying Snaps in Press Coverage (5 yards or less): 238
Failed Coverages in Press Coverage: 48
Success Rate in Press Coverage: 79.8 percent

Qualifying Snaps in Off Coverage (6 yards or more): 37
Failed Coverages in Off Coverage: 12
Success Rate in Off Coverage: 67.6 percent

Unsurprisingly, Sherman is a better cornerback when he is able to press receivers from the beginning of each play. He doesn't necessarily need to do that to be effective like some other bigger cornerbacks, but it is what plays to his strengths.

Also as expected, Sherman avoided moving away from left cornerback save for short stretches.


Route Breakdown
Route Success Rate
Post 100%
Seam 94%
Sideline 91%
In 88%
Curl 82%
Comeback 75%
Slant 71%
Out 56%
Crossing 52%
Corner 50%
Double Move 50%

Conclusion

Sherman is still in his prime. He was just 26 years of age last season. Therefore, it's no surprise that he hasn't suffered a notable dropoff in the same way Revis has. Revis was 29 years of age last season, and his relatively recent ACL tear will likely accelerate the way he physically declines over the coming seasons.

There may be a better cornerback in the NFL than Sherman at this point, but those cornerbacks will need to push their way past his level of performance rather than rely on any decline from the Seahawks player.

Posted by: Cian Fahey on 30 Mar 2015

17 comments, Last at 17 May 2015, 1:17am by arias

Comments

1
by RickD :: Mon, 03/30/2015 - 1:53pm

Not bad but the list of receivers completely shut down isn't quite like Revis's run in 2009 when he shut down Randy Moss, TO, Andre Johnson, Steve Smith,...forgetting who else was on that list.

I'm particularly impressed by Kelvin Benjamin and Dez Bryant each getting open 6 times in 16 plays.

2
by Theo :: Mon, 03/30/2015 - 2:10pm

"Receptions in the flat without a route run."
Help me out on this one, are these Receiver and TE screens? I can't think of other receptions where the receiver doesn't run a route.
I also don't know why these don't qualify.

3
by Cian Fahey :: Mon, 03/30/2015 - 2:19pm

Its when WR stays where he lines up but turns to face the quarterback and he throws him the ball. There aren't any blockers moving towards him so it's not a screen. Instead it's a quick throw that usually comes against off coverage. Packers do it quite often.

4
by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 03/30/2015 - 2:21pm

In the game charting, we refer to this as "smoke." It's usually an audible that cancels a planned run play, in an attempt to take advantage of the off coverage.

5
by Cian Fahey :: Mon, 03/30/2015 - 2:30pm

It's a package play rather than an audible. An option to QB based on how D lines up opposed to a changed call.

6
by Never Surrender :: Mon, 03/30/2015 - 4:25pm

Thank you for this article. It really is a privilege to be able to watch legends play and develop in front of our own eyes. It's all the more pleasurable in an era when I can have access to skilled analysts who have access to in-depth tools, showing on a technical level just how great these players can be.

7
by fier0017@tc umn edu :: Mon, 03/30/2015 - 5:34pm

So curious as to how Xavier Rhodes ranks compared to the top CB's. Seemed like he had a phenomenal year.

8
by Pen :: Mon, 03/30/2015 - 8:18pm

Thanks for another great article Cian. I so look forward to these CB analyses. They're the best thing on a site full of really good things.

9
by ihavechappedlips :: Tue, 03/31/2015 - 11:49am

He doesn't really play much man to man though, right? It's a Cover 3 based scheme. Most of their corners play well. The scheme works. The coaches are amazing at putting players in the right positions.

Joe Haden has played in multiple schemes and he's great in all of them. Some better than others, but still great. Constant change and disfunction around him. he stays the same.If you switched Sherman and Joe Haden, we'd be talking about Joe like he's an all-time great, rather than just great for his time. Browner was better than Sherman in Seattle, at least in his last full season there. Its the situation more than the player.

10
by CM :: Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:29pm

Browner was better than Sherman in Seattle, at least in his last full season there.

Browner's only full season in Seattle was in 2011, Sherman's rookie year. Even then, Browner had only 6 interceptions in 16 starts, to 4 for Sherman, plus a forced fumble, in 10 starts (though he played in all 16 games). If anyone is a product of the scheme, it's probably Browner, benefited from the Seahawks scheme by being a big physical corner.

14
by chemical burn :: Tue, 03/31/2015 - 5:39pm

I'd also say that the Seahawks willingness to let Browner, Thurmond and Maxwell walk while signing Sherman to a massive long-term deal speaks to the organization's own beliefs as to which players benefitted from scheme and which one was an irreplaceable talent.

(Also, Joe Haden is extremely good. They can both be extremely good.)

17
by arias :: Sun, 05/17/2015 - 1:17am

I don't agree. There are some games where they play him man, like against Dez Bryant. They play an amount of cover-1 as the play breakdowns above reveal.

It's not scheme that makes Sherman great, or there'd be a lot of players as good as him when there's not playing on the Seahawks and other cover-3 schemes.

11
by Guest789 :: Tue, 03/31/2015 - 2:06pm

Regarding the play against Adams in the playoffs, Rodgers thought he had a free play because the Seahawks jumped offsides, but the refs missed it. Still a hell of a play by Sherman, but not one he'd likely have the opportunity to make normally.

12
by Brew989 :: Tue, 03/31/2015 - 5:28pm

O/T

Didn't see an open thread so I'll post here. Any statistics out there that breakdown a QB's INTs by position of the interceptor? I have a theory that the worst quarterbacks will have a higher percentage of INTs go to linebackers. Obviously any INT is bad but it seems like when an LB or D-Line picks a pass it is usually an especially unforgiveable decision or temporary blindness by the QB.

13
by chemical burn :: Tue, 03/31/2015 - 5:39pm

Oh whoa - that's an interesting idea. D-line picks almost always seem like flukes to me, though - like tipped passes or batted balls that somehow end up in a guy's hands. I always thought safeties getting a pick was a sign of a bad decision and/or mechanics - either air-mailing a pass or throwing into double-coverage. I think we just look at what position Mark Sanchez throws the majority of his picks to and we'll have our answer for what position gets the most picks because of bad decision-making...

15
by Brew989 :: Tue, 03/31/2015 - 7:06pm

yeah, good points. To clarify a bit: My theory is specifically Linebacker interceptions could be more indicative of inability to read a defense, whereas DBack interceptions are more often just inaccuracies or taking an ill-advised risk, or easier to blame on receivers in some way.

Obviously there will be a ton of exceptions so the data might not even be worth fleshing out, but when an LB picks a pass off, it seems like more often you end up saying "man, he didn't even SEE that guy".

16
by tuluse :: Tue, 03/31/2015 - 7:37pm

A fun FO research paper showed that INTs by d-lineman in college was the biggest indicator of NFL success.

It makes some sense if you think about it (you have to be so gifted athletically, and so in tune with what's happening in the game to actually get them), but it was so out the blue.