This offseason, Shutdown Corner's Frank Schwab and Eric Edholm will look into what is overrated and underrated in all aspects of the NFL. We fully expect your angry emails and comments that are sure to follow.
OVERRATED AND UNDERRATED: Cornerback
Eric Edholm: Patrick Peterson
Peterson is a very good salesman and a better athlete.
He has sold his coaches on lining up him mano y mano against some of the league’s best receivers in man coverage. Peterson also has convinced them to let him moonlight on offense and special teams with his exceptional, game-breaking athleticism. That confidence and those skills will lead to him earning a monster contract, one way or another, after this season.
The thing is, whoever signs him will be overpaying.
Peterson is not, as he has asserted, the best — or one of the five best — cornerbacks in the NFL. He’s outside that group until further notice. But credit where credit is due: By taking on Richard Sherman in debate, the guy has made people think he is. Some NFL teams will buy (or have bought) into it, too.
Peterson can match well with the modern NFL No. 1 receiver such as Julio Jones, muscling and running with them. That’s his forte — getting physical and getting into those players’ heads with his mouth, his athletic gifts and his man-cover skills.
But smart, savvy and quicker receivers can give him fits. Double moves still befuddle Peterson. Yes, he can do things that 90 percent of corners cannot, but Peterson is still attacked regularly and beaten with some level of frequency that keeps him out of the elite category.
Watch the Titans' Kendall Wright scorch him first on an "in" cut near the end of regulation:
And then Peterson gives Wright way too much space in zone coverage — hard to tell without the coaches' tape, but looks like Cover 3 — for the underneath catch:
Although Peterson is great, he’s not yet one of the truly elite corners in the game until he shows he can cover consistently the way Sherman or Darrelle Revis do. He’s close but not there yet — only in his mind.
Frank Schwab: Antonio Cromartie
Cromartie had a great 2007 season, with 10 interceptions, and that's when he started being considered one of the best cornerbacks in the game. He also hasn't done a ton since then.
Cromartie moved on from the Chargers to the Jets, and next season he'll be with the Cardinals. Unless Cromartie can recapture his 2012 season (which was legitimately good), all Arizona will be getting is the post-2007 Cromartie, which is a corner who makes a big play here or there but generally gives up plenty, too.
Here is where Cromartie ranked among NFL cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus' grades each season after 2007: 113th, 45th, 45th, 56th, 16th, 103rd. Last season PFF had him giving up seven touchdowns (only three cornerbacks allowed more) and quarterbacks had a 100.7 rating when they threw his way. Somehow he made a Pro Bowl last year, which says a lot about the Pro Bowl.
Cromartie recently said on NFL Network that he thinks he and Darrelle Revis are the best cornerbacks in the game. Ummm, no. And many do hold Cromartie in high regard still. The results don't back that up.
EE: Lardarius Webb
Even last season coming off a knee injury, it was clear that Webb was the Ravens’ most dependable corner, and each week he was tested by some of the league’s best players of various shapes, sizes and skill sets.
He could match up with big receivers as the team’s left corner, he can play the right side if needed and Webb also can shift into the slot as the team’s nickel. The fact that he’s 5-foot-10 and 179 pounds, and as confident and competitive as he is speaks to the fact that he won’t back down from any challenge.
For proof of that toughness, Webb did not back down from a practice scrap the other day with new wide receiver Steve Smith, which likely earned instant respect from Smith as the two seek to make each other better.
That’s what you want in a No. 1 corner. Watch him come up and support the run or blow up screen plays. Watch him run with fast receivers. Check out the game tape of the second half of the season, when Webb started to look healthy again, against players such as Alshon Jeffery, Antonio Brown and A.J. Green.
Webb is set to turn 30 this year, which is hard to believe, but you watch: With a more solid Matt Elam on the back end and better pressure up front, Webb will show a year removed from knee surgery that he’s worthy of far more respect than he receives currently.
FS: Richard Sherman
The circus surrounding Sherman has created an interesting dynamic.
He suddenly became the most discussed non-quarterback in the NFL, truly starting with the perfect storm of him giving a really fired up interview with Erin Andrews at the end of the NFC championship game. That led to a couple weeks of Sherman in the Super Bowl spotlight, and away we go. All of a sudden people who know maybe 10 non-Manning NFL players were debating Sherman.
Many people do not like Sherman. He talks too much for their taste. That's fine. Some football contrarians have started in on Sherman, saying he's just a system player who operates in an easy-to-manage zone. Patrick Peterson made that argument mainstream by getting in a Twitter fight with Sherman.
If you wanted to say Sherman is overrated, I understand the argument. He gets more attention than plenty of players who are probably better, including Darrelle Revis, who is the NFL's best corner. But here's why I think he has become underrated: There are a lot of voices debating everything about Sherman, but if you ignore the madness look at him just as a football player, it's plain to see that he's absolutely fantastic.
All the stats he likes to cite about how good he is might be annoying, but they are true. His 2013 season was unbelievable. According to Pro Football Focus' coverage statistics, he gave up 29 catches for 348 yards and a touchdown all season. Quarterbacks had a 36.2 rating on passes thrown to receivers being covered by Sherman, and that's a ridiculous number. And he made big plays. Everyone remembers him batting away the pass to Michael Crabtree that was intercepted and led to the Andrews interview. His pick-six against Houston in Week 4 also led to an overtime win and absolutely helped shape the Seahawks as contenders early in the season. He might get a lot of attention, but he has the chops to back it up.
And the criticisms that the system helps Sherman are a bit misplaced. If plugging a player into a Cover-3 defense made any cornerback Richard Sherman, every team in organized football would run it. Players land in advantageous systems all the time. That doesn't matter if they can't play. To say Sherman is just a product of the Seahawks' system is insinuating anyone can do what he does, and that's false.
When someone brings up Richard Sherman now, unless you're hanging out with a lot of serious football fans, the discussion isn't going to drift toward how well he plays his position. That's too bad. Because as far as simply on-field performance goes, the sideshow around Sherman seems to be starting to overshadow how good of a football player he is.
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