INDIANAPOLIS – Young defensive backs have long admired the same players.
Deion Sanders. Ed Reed. Troy Polamalu. Rod Woodson.
Auburn cornerback Chris Davis is a member of the Church of Deion, but over time he has added new favorites.
“Growing up I can say Deion is the one that stood out most,” Davis said Sunday at the NFL combine, “but right now it’s Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman. I think Richard Sherman is one of the best corners in the game, and we’ve all seen it. We’ve all witnessed it.”
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Davis’ answer was not an anomaly. In fact, it was startling to hear how often Sherman’s name popped up when defensive backs at the combine were asked which NFL players they liked watching.
“Richard Sherman is the big name right now,” North Carolina State cornerback Dontae Johnson said.
But more interesting is that Sherman wasn’t alone even within his own secondary. Safeties at the combine routinely referenced Seattle safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor as players they admired.
Seahawks defensive backs have in a short time become the new Deion — the “it” player younger guys want to play like. It just depends on your preferred flavor: Do you want to be a hard-hitting safety (Chancellor), a speedy ball hawk (Thomas) or a lockdown corner (Sherman)?
Cornerbacks, of course, favored Sherman. Florida’s Marcus Roberson, who is a bigger corner at 6 feet, quickly referenced the 6-foot-3 Sherman because of Sherman’s “length, being able to bump and run and play the ball down the field.”
Johnson is similar in size to Sherman and said he watches how Sherman moves his body, how he’s able to handle smaller receivers.
“It definitely helps me to compare my game to him because we’re so similar,” he said.
Free safeties glowed about Thomas. Florida State’s Terrence Brooks said he watches film of Thomas and Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, another popular choice. Of Thomas, Brooks said he likes “how versatile he is. He’s able to come down and guard guys with ease. He’s physical, too, and he’s just an all-around player. That’s how I kind of model my game. I definitely keep my nickel skills and cover skills like that and being physical.”
North Carolina safety Tre Boston said he watches film of Thomas because he’s “a guy who is fiery. He’s flying across the field, 110 percent. Just trying to get to the ball. I just love that.”
And Minnesota’s Brock Vereen watches Thomas because he’s so fast and so good at getting from sideline to sideline.
“He is the definition of that,” Vereen said. “He plays low, too. He plays as low as anybody. That’s definitely something to admire.”
But the safeties who considered themselves big hitters leaned toward Chancellor. Louisville’s Calvin Pryor is largely considered one of the two best safeties in the draft, along with Alabama’s HaHa Clinton-Dix. But Clinton-Dix admitted he couldn’t hit as hard as Pryor. So it’s natural that Pryor likes watching Chancellor.
“I became a huge fan of Kam Chancellor after this past season, just seeing the things he does on the field and how he can affect the game so much,” Pryor said.
A similar sentiment was echoed by Washington State safety Deone Bucannon. Bucannon isn’t a Seahawks fan, but he likes watching Chancellor’s bruising style.
Not surprisingly, Bucannon’s biggest strength is his hitting. He, unlike many of his contemporaries, didn’t have to look very far to find a player he looked up to.
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org