PHOENIX — The debate over who’s the NFL’s best cornerback still comes down to Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman, two years after their Twitter beef.
New England Patriots fans didn’t have a dog in the fight when the Seattle Seahawks cornerback, fresh off trash-talking Tom Brady, started calling himself the best in the NFL, much to the chagrin of Revis, who then was on the New York Jets. New Englanders quickly warmed to Revis after the cornerback signed a one-year contract with the Patriots over the offseason, even though he still feels like a rental or lease until he agrees to a long-term deal.
Chances of the Patriots re-signing Revis could expand if they’re able to beat the Seahawks on Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX.
Before getting down to the tale of the tape, let’s first look at each player’s personality.
“They both prepare well,” Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner said about his former and current teammates. “They’re both professionals. Richard’s a real cerebral football player. When he’s playing the game, he always knows where his help is. So does Darrelle. I just think Sherm’s a little more outspoken about his game.”
You can say that again, Brandon. Sherman is quick to run his mouth both on and off the football field. He’ll declare he’s the best in the NFL, while Revis has no interest in getting into such debates.
Revis collects his thoughts with a sigh after every question from the media. Perhaps he’s secretly thinking, “What would Bill Belichick say?” but his answers are far more thoughtful and eloquent than those of his head coach.
Sherman, to his credit, is playing nice this week with the elder Revis.
“I don’t measure my game to anybody’s,” Sherman said Tuesday at Super Bowl Media Day. “I don’t have a great answer to that question. I think my game measures up pretty well to myself.”
Revis also said he was playing nice, but there did appear to be a slight dig thrown at his opponent.
“Just the ability to shut down your side, whatever side you’re on,” Revis said when asked about the Seahawk’s strength. “Sherman, he plays left corner and he does great. He’s great at what he does. I’m not really knocking him on what he does. He’s a playmaker, and that’s what he does for his team.”
Whichever side of the debate you’re on, you’re probably not wrong. Revis allowed just 43 catches on 84 targets for 579 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions this season, including playoffs, for a 70.5 passer rating against. Sherman was targeted 72 times, and he allowed 34 catches for 473 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions for a 38.7 passer rating against. Revis had 12 passes defensed to Sherman’s five, and the Patriots cornerback is more versatile.
The Patriots adjust their coverages from man to zone, Cover 1 to Cover 3, Cover-2 zone to Cover-2 man under at a moment’s notice, and Revis excels regardless. Sherman mostly stays in the Seahawks’ Cover-3 zone scheme, though Seattle will throw in some Cover 1 man looks at times. Revis played 179 snaps in the slot, while Sherman took just 27 reps inside.
Revis, as evidenced by those slot snaps, is much more apt to follow a receiver around the field, and it’s typically the team’s No. 1 option. Sherman can lock down the left side of the field, while Revis can trap a player on his island.
Sherman has the stats, while Revis has all the intangibles.
“Revis is a little more physical at the line,” Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “Sherman has a lot of length, he’s a long guy. He’s able to play the back hip and still play the deep ball because of the length of his arms. Revis is good at the line. He’s got quick feet and is in and out his break. They’re pretty similar but different.”
Kearse and Sherman’s teammate, receiver Doug Baldwin, expounded on those differences.
“They have multiple different techniques that they use,” Baldwin said. “I don’t want to go too deep into it. (Sherman) has a different technique than Revis does. Revis is probably one of the most patient defensive backs I have watched on tape. His technique is vastly different from what I have seen from other guys. It presents a challenge.
“Sherman is one of those guys — he might not be the most patient, but he has length to him and his competitiveness is unparalleled. Two vastly different techniques, but they are both obviously very good at what they do.”
Patriots safety Devin McCourty wasn’t asked to compare the two players, but he did pay Revis the ultimate compliment.
“We always talk about it in our room is he’s never out of position,” McCourty said. “You get to see a guy play on Sunday, and that’s all good, but I’m talking about practice, 1-on-1s, he’s never really out of position on any throws. Sometimes guys make catches, and in this league, there’s other great players, they’re going to make great plays, but to watch a corner, which is so hard to do, to never be out of position, to me is why he’s the best corner in the game.”
Something tells me Sherman won’t be happy to hear about that.
Browner probably knows both players best out of any member of the Seahawks or Patriots. The original member of the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom was just happy to go from one great secondary to another.
“I wouldn’t say that I miss it, but those guys mean something to me,” Browner said about the Seahawks. “I’m happy to be playing with the likes of Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty. It’s like I didn’t miss a step. It’s not like I went and played for a team that didn’t have solid DBs. It is fun.”
These might be the two best all-around secondaries in the NFL, which presents unique challenges for Brady and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks probably have the better starting group, while the Patriots have better depth. As far as the debate between Revis and Sherman? No one loses.
“They’re different cornerbacks, and what I’ve found over the years is that each guy has his own style, because of their body makeup and their speed and their quickness and savvy and all of those things,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “I think these are two really, really savvy football players that really understand the game and have tremendous feel, which basically needs to be inherent to the great players.
“You can have all of the physical ability in the world, but if you don’t have that next level of understanding and awareness that Richard has and Revis has, that’s what makes them so special. They can make plays when other guys can’t because of things that they see and feel and can adapt to. So they are not — they don’t look the same, they’re not anywhere near the same style of player, but yet the results are really very similar.”
Thumbnail photos via Associated Press