Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 2/21/13
You may not like Richard Sherman, or his big mouth, but his play on the field backs up all the trash talk he serves out. Darrelle Revis, however, is tired of all the talk. On Wednesday, the Jets cornerback took to Twitter in attempt to shut up Sherman. This whole offseason Sherman has used stats to back up his case as the best shutdown cornerback in the NFL — and he’s making a good point. Revis missed all but 1 1/2 games in 2012, so we’ll have to use his 2011 statistics against Sherman’s 2012 stats. Each corner played 16 games in each of those seasons. Sherman played 590 coverage snaps in 2012 to Revis’ 553 in 2011, according to Pro Football Focus. Sherman was targeted by quarterbacks just one more time than Revis, though. Sherman allowed 40 receptions on 86 targets for 632 yards and two touchdowns to Revis’ 35 receptions on 85 targets for 508 yards and one touchdown. Sherman’s quarterback rating against was 40.5 to Revis’ 45.6. Sherman’s rating is so much lower because he had eight interceptions, while Revis had four. So while Revis has the advantage in yards per cover snap and cover snaps per receptions, Sherman beats Revis at cover snaps per target and interceptions. For years NFL pundits have opined that Revis doesn’t collect many turnovers because he’s targeted so infrequently — his career high is six. Sherman proved in just his second season that you can still pull down picks even if you’re rarely thrown at. Sherman also added three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. The fact that Sherman is also targeted less per cover snap tells the story that statistics can’t. That means Sherman is blanketing his man more often, and quarterbacks are more scared to throw in his direction. To continue the stat comparison, Revis allowed a reception on just 41.2 percent of his targets to Sherman’s 44.4 (including playoffs). Each player allowed two receptions of over 50 yards and Revis had 16 pass deflections to Sherman’s 19. So while Revis does a better job at preventing receptions when passes are thrown his way, Sherman is the more dangerous player. Both players returned one interception back for a touchdown. It’s actually frightening to see how similar the two players’ statistics are. The fact that Sherman has done it more recently — even if it’s just one year — makes him the current king of the shutdown cornerback. You can argue that the Seattle corner gets more help from his defense. Sherman is part of a better secondary — awesomely nicknamed the Legion of Boom — and one of the best defenses in football. But both cornerbacks, for the most part, play out on islands covering one half of the field and trailing whichever wide receiver is stacked up across from them. Both teams play in primarily cover one schemes with one safety over the top helping out deep. Typically, that safety will help out Revis and Sherman’s fellow cornerbacks, Antonio Cromartie and Brandon Browner. Revis’ defense also blitzes more often than Sherman’s. That, in theory, should give Revis less time to cover, though Seattle has the better pass rushers. If we were comparing Revis’ best season — 2009 — to Sherman in 2012, this would be a different story. But the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league and lately Revis has been injured and his game regressed in 2010 and 2011. It’s also worth mentioning we’re comparing a cornerback in his fifth season to a player in his second and just his fourth overall of playing cornerback — Sherman’s first three years at Stanford were spent at wide receiver. Next year, as long as Revis stays healthy, Sherman will prove he’s the better player and his stats will back that up. The Seahawk will only get better the longer he’s in the league. Even though Revis and Sherman will never match up one-on-one (unless Sherman decides to move back to wide receiver), a little competition never hurt anyone. If this debate just makes Revis and Sherman up their game one tick more, it’s better for the NFL. Photo via Facebook/Richard Sherman
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