Around the NFL will look at one compelling matchup or comparison each day leading up to Super Bowl XLIX. Today: The top best cornerbacks in football.
Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman both earned first-team All-Pro selections for their efforts in 2014. Now we get to see them share the field in Super Bowl XLIX.
Their shared involvement in the biggest game of the season deserves a closer look at both players:
How they differ
Sherman and Revis are in their own class at cornerback. What makes a comparison interesting is that they attack the job in very different ways.
This can be traced back to scheme. Sherman is lined up almost exclusively on the left side of Seattle's tremendous secondary. ESPN's Field Yates wrote that Sherman played on the left side in 847 out of 928 defensive snaps this season, that's 91.3 percent of the time. While this is often cited as a strike against Sherman in discussions of the game's elite corners, the reality is that Dan Quinn's defense doesn't require a corner who will follow around a single receiver for three hours. Sherman could probably do that, too, but that's not what's asked of him.
Revis operates as a shutdown corner in a more traditional manner. It began over five standout seasons with the Jets and continued in his first year under Bill Belichick. (Revis' lone season in Tampa is best forgotten by all involved.) The Patriots have used him in the Revis Island role (locking on, and erasing, a single target) and as a floating entity who covers multiple receivers over four quarters. According to Yates, Revis lined up against five different receivers in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.
"We play the game two different ways," Sherman said last Wednesday. "He plays it more, I guess, meticulous. More conventional. People say his technique is a little more conventional and mine is more unorthodox, which means it's more difficult to replicate what I do on the football field. So everybody is going to make comparisons, but it's two different styles to compare. I play my way, he plays his way, and both of them are effective."
Sherman drew the ire of Revis in early 2013 by hosting a video segment for Bleacher Report in which he asked tourists on Bourbon Street if he was better than Revis. The act was deemed disrespectful by Revis, who made the uncharacteristic move to hit back on Twitter.
Revis added more barbs before Sherman fired back.
"He needs to quit attaching his career to my career," he said.
Things have calmed down in the time since, and Revis -- now collecting checks from Patriot Way -- is unlikely to say a peep. Can Sherman help himself?
Revis earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2013, but it's hard to say he was all the way back from his September 2012 ACL tear. He appeared to regain pre-injury form with the Patriots, and enters Sunday with no known injuries.
The same can't be said for Sherman, who suffered a sprained elbow in the conference title game win over the Packers. Sherman said he's playing Sunday, but it remains unknown how much the injury might affect his play. Don't be surprised if we Sherman wearing a Gronk-like elbow protector.
Who's the better player?
Sherman is long and lean with great instincts and excellent ball skills that can be traced back to his days as a wide receiver at Stanford. Revis is shorter and thicker, with impeccable instincts, body control and speed that can keep up with even the swiftest of receivers.
Revis gets the edge for his proven ability to thrive in a variety of roles. Sherman is the perfect fit for what Seattle does, but his responsibility isn't at the same level. Sherman is also helped by having the greatest free safety in the planet in Earl Thomas playing next to him every Sunday.
Both players likely are headed to Canton, but give me Revis in a big spot. The Super Bowl certainly qualifies.
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