According to Pro Football Focus, Sherman allowed the third-lowest completion percentage among cornerbacks who had at least 60 passes thrown their way, at 48.4 percent.
With the Seahawks set to report for training camp July 29 (practices begin the next day), it’s time to look at the players I feel are most pivotal in 2016.
Call it “16 for ’16,” as we count down the 16 most important Seahawks in 2016, unveiling one new player each day until the team reports.
The countdown continues at No. 5 with Richard Sherman, whose already sky-high value figures to only increase as his role continues to expand.
Player: Richard Sherman.
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2016 contract status: Sherman is entering the second season of a four-year, $56 million extension (with $40 million guaranteed) that he signed in the spring of 2014. Sherman will have a base salary of $12.56 million in 2016.
Expected 2016 role: Starting left cornerback.
Whey he’s ranked here: In 2015, Sherman answered what had been the only real criticism levied his way as he rose to prominence since entering the league in 2011 — how he’d do if asked to move around and cover an opponent’s best receiver.
The Seahawks hadn’t needed or desired to do that much in previous seasons.
But last year, with some depth issues at cornerback and the struggles of veteran Cary Williams (who was eventually released) Sherman was asked to move around as much as he ever had. In the opener against St. Louis, when the Seahawks were playing without holdout safety Kam Chancellor, he covered the slot for much of the game. Against the Bengals, after Williams couldn’t contain Cincinnati star A.J. Green, Sherman was moved in-game to cover Green and largely shut him down the rest of the way.
And against Pittsburgh, Sherman took the lead in limiting Steelers’ standout Antonio Brown.
Despite the differing and added responsibility, Sherman played as he always had. One stat that makes that case came from Pro Football Focus stating that Sherman allowed the third-lowest completion percentage among cornerbacks who had at least 60 passes thrown their way, at 48.4 percent (Darrelle Revis was first at 46.5 and Patrick Peterson next at 47.4).
The Seahawks should open the year steadier in the secondary with Jeremy Lane healthy and expected to be the right cornerback, and without the kind of upheaval generated by Chancellor’s holdout.
Still, Sherman could again be asked to move around and cover an opponent’s No. 1 receiver as needed with the Seahawks now seeing it as something that could give them a strategic advantage rather than just needing to do it out of necessity.
As coach Pete Carroll has noted, moving Sherman around wasn’t dependent on just Sherman. It also requires other players to adapt to different roles, as well.
But with Seattle now having experience not only with its starters but also the backups, the Seahawks may feel more comfortable than ever throwing different looks at opponents.
“We have, really, as good of flexibility as we’ve ever had,” Carroll said in March. “… This is really as strong as I’ve felt we’ve gone into this portion of the year with versatility. The competition is really going to be on. We’ll hopefully be able to situate that— (defensive coordinator) Kris (Richard) will get it all squared away — so we can take advantage of that. It does give us choices, matchup-wise, if it all stays somewhat the same, so that’s a real positive.”
Richard, who seems more eager to install a more-varied package than his predecessor at defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, echoed that assertion in June.
“We’re wiser, we’re getting older and we’re getting smarter,’’ Richard said. “The better we can understand this defense day in and day out, it makes us that much more flexible.”
While Sherman downplayed being asked to take on an opponent’s number one receiver last year, it was obvious he embraced the challenge.
“He was really excited about it,’’ teammate Doug Baldwin said after the Pittsburgh game. “You could see his focus through the course of the week was above and beyond anything it’s ever been before.”
Sherman generally spoke more openly of what he felt was better tackling in 2015 saying “it’s just about being complete. After a while, you stop competing with other people and you start competing with yourself. You start competing with history, and just seeing how good you can get, how perfect you can play.’’
The continuing evolution of Sherman’s game will only add to the intrigue of the 2016 season for Seattle.