Any Cornerback can call himself a “lockdown” corner, but only few are willing to shadow the best Wide Receiver on the opposing team week in and week out, and actually have a better game than that opposing receiver. In the last four years or so, we saw some of the most interesting performances in recent memory.
This season, Charles “Peanut” Tillman & Tim Jennings were dangerous on the outside in Chicago. Doomed by injuries and an average offense, Da Bears’ cornerback tandem stopped looking so elite, as teams found other ways to expose their defense, as their Safeties have average coverage skills and the anchor to their defense, Brian Urlacher missed countless games.
The best cornerback this season was unanimously Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. Sherman had a year reminiscent to the one Revis had in 2009, registering 61 tackles, 3 Forced Fumbles, 7 INTs and a sack. This led to the question: who had a better season, Revis in 09 or Sherman in 2012?
Below is a list of notable Receivers both Revis and Sherman faced and shadowed for the majority of the game, as well as the numbers the Receivers put up.
I’m sure Sherman’s performance against Johnson did not discourage him, because with his unorthodox style at Wide Receiver, Johnson has also been a nuisance to Darrelle Revis, as they see each other twice a year. Somehow, Johnson finds a way to always get open against the best cornerbacks in the league.
A trait both corners share is their hands. Revis’s hands come to a surprise, as he can find a way to intercept back-shoulder fades, which happens to be arguably the most difficult route for a corner to defend. Richard Sherman’s hands might not come to a surprise to most people, as he was a Wide Receiver for the most part, then moved to Corner late in his college career at Stanford.
While Sherman has recorded more tackles and one more interception than Revis in 2009, I think it is safe to say that Revis still had a better campaign than the one Sherman is having right now. The competition that the two faced is arguable, but I’d say the edge goes to Revis in terms of difficulty in opponents, and yet he still had eight more passes defensed than Sherman. Sherman can be intimidating for a Wide Receiver with his huge stature, similar to how Nnamdi Asomugha used to intimidate opponents, but that isn’t the case anymore. Teams used to think they can take advantage of Revis, primarily because most WRs are 6’2” and taller today. Many have tried, and many have failed, which gave light to the famous term “Revis Island,” a slew of Wide Receivers who have tried to put up numbers, but failed and are basically stranded on the island until they prove otherwise, which is highly unlikely.
There are several good cornerbacks in the NFL, and more young guys emerging. Chris Harris of the Denver Broncos, Janoris Jenkins of the St. Louis Rams and Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns are earning recognition in the NFL at a rapid pace. But as of now, Revis is still the best cornerback in the NFL, and Richard Sherman has arguably earned the spot for 2nd best, eclipsing guys like Johnathan Joseph of the Houston Texans, Brandon Flowers of the Kansas City Chiefs and Brandon Carr of the Dallas Cowboys. No knock on any of those guys’ game, but Richard Sherman is something special to watch out there. And it will be interesting next season when Darrelle Revis comes back healthy, and comparing the play of the two young Locksmiths while they are both active in the league.