Richard Sherman and Patrick are by far the two best cornerbacks in our league today. How could we forget Richard’s rant after the NFC Title game that will live in infamy? But is he truly the best cornerback in the game today? Patrick Peterson obviously thinks otherwise and the two have been at a war of words for quite some time. So, I’ll break down each technique of being a cornerback and see who has the edge.
Man Coverage– When you are scouting a cornerback, the first thing you must look for is their ability to play one on one man to man coverage. Receivers are spread all around the line of scrimmage and a corner must be able to defend these play-makers without safety help over the top. Patrick has become one of the very best when it comes to defending a guy in man to man underneath. He has a remarkable combination of size, speed and athleticism to really get a receiver off his route and blanket them. He isn’t a physical corner by any means but he’s definitely finesse and depends on his size and speed to win those one on one battles.
Richard plays with a chip on his shoulder on every possession. He wants to be physical with everybody he’s lined up against. He displays great hands, quick feet, great vision, he keeps his eyes on the receiver and the quarterback and he knows where to be at the right time. Richard is the type of corner to rely heavily on bump and run coverage. He wants to jam a receiver off his route and force the quarterback to pass to the opposite side of the football field. He’s extremely crafty and he uses a variety of tactics that allow him to win at the line of scrimmage.
Edge: Draw, both play man to man with their own style of play and it works in their favor.
Zone Coverage: In order to be among the NFL’s elite cornerbacks, you must also shine in zone coverage and that demands great instincts, excellent footwork, awareness and recognition. Patrick is a guy who jumps on a receiver’s routes aggressively and frequently. Many believe that this is when he’s at his best is playing off the receiver and being an impact player in a zone coverage. His footwork can be a tad bit shady at times but the great athleticism he displays allows him to to do something when the ball is coming.
Richard shows outstanding instinct, awareness and recognition and he makes plays on the football due to his ability to read, dissect and jump on a route. He shows the ability to play far off the receiver so that when the receiver breaks in on his route, Richard sits atop the route and he capitalizes on the ball being thrown in his direction. These receivers today like to go deep and that’s when you go short and intermediate in a zone coverage because the flat is wide open.
Edge: Richard. Zone coverage is what allows the Seahawks defense to make the plays they do on the football. Richard plays inside on the receiver in zone coverage since that’s where receivers try to cut once they break off the line of scrimmage.
Ballskills- Okay. We’ve spoken about the two main coverages. Let’s talk more about other attributes a cornerback needs to be successful in the league today. It’s one thing to cover and take away a receiver but you want to get takeaways and set your offense up with good field position or score six for your defense. Since coming into the league in 2011, Patrick has become one of the best defensive playmakers on the defensive side of the football. He can get you the pick and break the play up if necessary.
Richard is also very good when it comes to ballskills. Unlike Patrick who is more finesse with his approach, Richard relies on physicality when it comes to pursuing the football. When he gets an interception, you never see him bobble the football or drop a pick. The man was a wide receiver when he was at Stanford and it shows in his soft hands.
Edge– Patrick. Yes, Richard has led the league in interceptions over the last three seasons with twenty and that’s great but Patrick is similar to an offensive player on defense because when he gets the ball in his hands, he’s fantastic in the open field and that’s what gives him the edge in ballskills.
Tackling- Tackling has become somewhat of a lost art in the NFL today. Tackling isn’t the number one thing scouts look for in a corner but elite defenders make tackles in the open field. Patrick is described as a reluctant tackler. He will throw his body and make contact with the ball carrier but he isn’t necessarily a guy who will be aggressive.
Richard is a big time hitter on the edges. He hits runners at the knees but you can’t question this guys toughness or physical nature to the position. He can run into the open field and make a tackle and get after the football. He shows a willingness to put a hit on somebody despite his frame.
Edge– Richard. If you can tackle in the backend, you automatically have the edge.
Intimidation- An elite defensive back will make a quarterback think twice before throwing in his direction. Patrick has improved to becoming that shut down corner. He still isn’t described as that shut down guy but he has made enough plays to make quarterbacks not throw in his direction.
Richard can shut down one entire side of the football field. At 6’3, he prefers to defend those bigger receivers like A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones instead of those smaller guys in the slot like Amendola, Cruz or Welker. He forces receivers to work if they want to make a catch. He will let you know at the line that it won’t be easy.
Both these guys are great at what they do. Right now if I needed a corner I’m taking Richard Sherman. He can make plays in both man and zone coverages.