Corners Getting Paid

Ben Stockwell goes deep into the details, examining the Sherman-Haden-Peterson cornerback question.

| 3 years ago
getting-paid2

Corners Getting Paid


getting-paid2On the eve of the draft the Seattle Seahawks made Richard Sherman the league’s highest paid cornerback with a four-year extension worth $57.4million which included a mind-blowing $40 million guaranteed.

Sherman held his crown as the league’s highest paid corner for less than a week with the Browns yesterday handing Joe Haden a 5-year, $68 million extension, keeping the former Gator in Cleveland through 2019. Patrick Peterson has thrust himself into the conversation by stating that he is worth more than Sherman, a sentiment the Cardinals apparently share with reports that just such a contract is in the works.

But who’s best? It is the fan’s prerogative to discuss and debate player rankings in the offseason, with the discussions around our own Top 101 proof positive of that. However, in this case is there really a debate to be had?

The contracts being handed out would suggest that these three corners are all on the same plateau, but does the performance and production back this up or does one man clearly stand alone?

Sherman Takes the Big Picture

Taking the opportunity to start with our unique and thorough grading system, Sherman has clearly separated himself to this point. Peterson and Haden were both more heralded prospects than Sherman but it is the Seahawks’ fifth-rounder from the 2011 draft who has had the highest coverage and overall grade in each of the three seasons that these corners have shared in the NFL.

Since 2011 Sherman boasts a +47.4 coverage grade, far ahead of both Haden (+22.0) and Peterson (+9.5) whose résumés are far from weak but pale in comparison to Sherman’s.

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When it comes to passer rating allowed Haden and Peterson’s best seasons still come up short of Sherman’s worst season. In terms of the baseline performance Sherman sets out a clear early lead over his peers.

Covering the Blitz

Effective cornerback play is inextricably linked with how they fit into the overall scheme of the defense. Part of that is fitting in with how the defensive front needs to generate pressure, whether they can generate it from a four-man rush or need to be more aggressive and bring blitzes.

Just as easily as a blitz can generate the sort of pressure to force a mistake from a quarterback it can as easily leave a corner isolated on an island with little or no help if the blitz is picked up or beaten. Clearly a top-drawer corner needs to be able to shut his man down in both scenarios, taking advantage of what the blitz can bring while remaining steadfast in coverage of a base pass rush.

Pairing the Seahawks’ fearsome four-man rush with Sherman’s supreme coverage skills is clearly a winning combination with teams gaining little more than 6 yards per attempt. Neither Peterson nor Haden can come close to Sherman’s numbers with only one of the two even surrendering a passer rating below 100.

Against the blitz, conversely, we see Haden and Peterson top Sherman with their coverage skills clearly matching well with the more aggressive play calling that was required to generate pressure for Cleveland and Arizona, respectively.

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An offense’s reaction to heavy blitzes is usually to get the ball out quickly and prevent any free rushers from getting to the passer. Offenses getting the ball out quick and on rhythm are tough to defend and that was borne out with Haden and Peterson both struggling against passes released in 2.5 seconds or less.

While Sherman surrendered completions on less than 50% of his 21 targets, Haden and Peterson each surrendered completion percentages in excess of 65% and passer ratings above 100 on these quick release passes.

Money in the Redzone

A big area for receivers to make their money is in the redzone. Rack up the touchdowns, rack up the score, rack up the dollars. It goes, then, that the top corners should be earning their dollars in the redzone by keeping touchdowns off the board and even turning the ball over to prevent even a field goal.

While Sherman excelled inside the 20, surrendering no touchdowns and sparking two turnovers, his competition combined to surrender eight touchdowns on 21 targets with only one target (to Peterson) resulting in a turnover for the Browns or the Cardinals.

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Bringing us back full circle to the difficulty of assignment argument, those eight touchdowns were surrendered to the likes of Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Andre Johnson (twice) and Brandon Marshall. Tough assignments, but at the end of the day their job is to prevent those touchdown grabs, whoever is on the receiving end of them.

To Track or to Shutdown?

One of the key talking points at the heart of the issue seems to be what a “No. 1 corner” should be doing in terms of his assignment. There is a sentiment in some quarters that a truly elite corner should be tracking an opponent’s No. 1 receiver if he wants to be considered among the league’s elite. Others feel that locking down one side of the field on the quarterback’s open side is just as merit worthy.

Last week PFF Fantasy’s Ross Miles highlighted “The Big Four” in terms of corners tracking opposing team’s top target with Sherman conspicuous by his absence. While Haden led the league aligning opposite a team’s opposing No. 1 wideout on 65% of snaps and Peterson did so 55% of the time, Sherman was far lower at 27%.

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In terms of assignment then, Sherman is not tested in the same way as Haden and Peterson. However, the key point must always be performance within a given role, not simply the role being executed. If the role was the key determinant of quality then DeAngelo Hall would be in this conversation and I don’t think many people beyond Hall himself would be interested in making that argument.

While Haden and Peterson may have the more varied assignments, teams were more willing to avoid one area (Sherman) than not throw to their top target (Haden and Peterson). On top of that teams were less effective targeting Sherman isolated on his island than they were in taking on Peterson and Haden shadowing top targets to either side.

Tougher assignment maybe, but which defender and approach yielded more success for both individual and team?

The Final Reckoning?

So after looking at all of these splits in the statistics is there any doubt that Sherman has separated himself from this triumvirate of newly-minted corners? In terms of production and performance Sherman clearly separates himself from the other two with the only counter argument available that Haden and Peterson operate in more varied and difficult assignments. However, is the performance level close enough for that difference in assignment level to bridge the gap?

In my opinion, no.

As onlookers we are always seeking discussion and debate to anoint someone as the best at a position but sometimes there simply isn’t much of a debate to be had, and this is one of those cases. That the Seahawks do not ask or need Sherman to shadow a No. 1 receiver does not denigrate what he does locking down his side of the field, it merely gives him an “incomplete” grade in terms of what some people like to see a top cornerback doing. Simply operating a more difficult assignment does not elevate a very good corner to that next level of performance.

The gold standard of cornerback play in recent seasons is “Revis Island” and while Haden and Peterson operate in a similar role, that alone does not put them in that bracket. There are two parts of what Darrelle Revis produced with the Jets: the assignment and the performance level.

Sherman is the only corner performing to that level but without the difficulty of assignment and, at the end of the day, that has to be the more important factor — at least when you have the sort of separation in performance and production that Sherman has established over Haden and Peterson.

 

Follow Ben on Twitter @PFF_Ben

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Tyler

    Sherman may very well be better than Haden and Peterson but in addition to not shadowing the other teams top receiver wouldn’t you say the level of talent on the field with Sherman is much higher than what Haden and Peterson are working with?

    Much like Alabama players often looking better than they are I wonder if the same is happening with Sherman.

    • Brett

      No. These numbers isolate individual performance.

    • Ben Peterson

      The team should account for some of the difference in numbers, but don’t forget that Haden and Peterson were both on top 10 defenses, so they must have had some help. And the numbers are SO MUCH in Sherman’s favor that it can’t all be accounted for by teammates. Peterson’s passer rating allowed is actually above the average passer rating. No “shutdown” corner should allow a passer rating of more than 90.

      • PetEng

        Sherman has two things in his favor:

        1) Best defense in the league (which he contributed too).
        2) Probably guarded the WR1.6 on average….PP/JH guarded closer to a WR1.

        PP is certainly riding a bit more on rep than stats though. I think he’s made some really boneheaded decisions at times.

  • Nick Jones

    As with what Tyler said, it’s a bit easier with Chancellor and Thomas behind you and a line getting great pressure without blitzing. Sherman is great no doubt but the gap is not as significant as you make out

    • Arif Hasan

      The Seahawks didn’t get much pressure in 2011 or 2012, and saw it as a big need for 2013. Sherman still performed very well in both of those years—I don’t see that as a big reason for his success.

      I also doubt the importance of Chancellor/Thomas when assessing Sherman. Thomas makes the scheme go, but the nature of the single-high safety looks they give—both the Cover-1 and Cover-3—leaves Sherman alone the vast majority of the time.

      Also, Arizona gets pretty good pressure. Would that not take away from the Patrick Peterson argument?

      • Andrew Maples

        Well AZ has to rush 5 or more defenders in order to get that “pretty good pressure” which leaves less defenders to cover the middle of the field and the flats. This in turn opens up the WR’s route-tree and puts Peterson at a dis-advantage of being able to predict where the Receiver is going.

        • eYeDEF

          Five defenders? Really? Dockett, Calais Campbell, and John Abraham seemed to generate decent pressure last season. Who was the regular fifth?

  • chillermonster

    It would be interesting to compare the performance of all of these guys when they are covering an opposing WR1. While Sherman does it less often, how do his metrics look when he is on the WR1 as compared to the other guys.

    • eYeDEF

      On top of that teams were less effective targeting Sherman isolated on his island than they were in taking on Peterson and Haden shadowing top targets to either side.

      He was more effective against the #1’s that he did shadow by a longshot than Peterson or Haden. The article could have gone in more detail but it did make a passing reference to it here.

  • Ben Peterson

    Whether you make the tracking argument or not, the fact remains that Sherman hasn’t allowed a passer rating over a full season of more than 60, Peterson and Haden haven’t held a passer rating UNDER 60 in any one season. Peterson is only even in this conversation because of his athleticism, a passer rating of more than 90 is unacceptable for a supposed #1 corner.

    • Lord Mad

      It helps being in a division with subpar passing offenses for Sherman as well facing #1 receivers less than half of the others and never having to shadow anybody.

      • Arif Hasan

        Unlike Patrick Peterson, who is in a completely different division or Joe Haden, who has had to deal with the 30th, 28th and 13th-ranked offenses in net yards per attempt.

        • Lord Mad

          Already spoke on PP above but the Cardinals QB situation was volatile before Palmer and even then Palmer was one of the most intercepted QBs last year..while Wilson has been the best QB in that division for 2 years now. Not the same competition.
          Haden has still faced tougher competition and much better WRs than Sherman has.

          • Arif Hasan

            Dude that’s two games. If you think two games explains the difference in the arguments presented above, you are beyond delusional.

          • Lord Mad

            Two games? The hell are you talking about? Two games per year over several years adds up. Math is hard huh? You nitpicked the hell out of what you wanted to respond to.

          • Arif Hasan

            And proportional increases are hard for you, huh. Two games over three years is six games. When you don’t include those six games, you get 42 other games.

            Look, the difference is massive. If you think two games a year accounts for the fact that Peterson’s allowed passer rating is twice that of Sherman, you don’t understand proportions or math.

            You seem to be fond of nitpicking yourself, attempting to inflate the importance of 6 games (two of which did not even have the Russell Wilson advantage you seem to care about) over 42 other games.

          • Lord Mad

            What seems to be really hard for you is trying to take in all of what I responded to instead, you just straw man what I say. The degree of difficult in facing a #1 WR more than twice as much as well as shadowing players is far harder than sticking to one side, never shadowing players, facing much lower tier WRs, and getting most of your turnover production from bad QBs.

            Maybe take the whole conversation in instead of what you choose to arbitrarily focus on cupcake.

          • Arif Hasan

            You’re going to have to explain how I straw man’d your competition argument when I actually compared their competition.

            If you compare how they played when JUST against #1 receivers, Sherman comes out ahead.

            Also, for your argument to carry any merit at all, you’d have to have good evidence that #1 receivers have a passer rating proportionally larger than the difference in non-#1 receivers that Sherman doesn’t cover.

            So if Patrick Peterson’s snaps covered the #1 receiver 100% of the time and Sherman covered the #2 receiver 100% of the time, you would need to prove that the passer rating when throwing to the #1 receiver is 44 points of passer rating.

            Already, we know that’s not true (if you look at PFF data, the average difference in rating is 12.4 from a team’s first receiver in targets to its second). Moreover, that proportion isn’t true—we know that because the data is above: 27%/55%/65%.

            If you actually portioned it out, Sherman only benefits from the 38% of the time Haden covered the #1 receiver and 28% of the time Peterson did. That’s a difference of 4.7 points of passer rating and 3.5 points of passer rating…. not 44.

            The difference is massive and you’re grasping at straws, and using homophobic nicknames to boot.

          • JDV

            so you can say that Peterson is at a disadvantage for facing Russell Wilson but does that not reverse in the that Sherman has to face Larry Fitzgerald?

          • Lord Mad

            “You’re going to have to explain how I straw man’d your competition argument when I actually compared their competition.”

            It’s not that tough is it? You just took one point of my remark and ran with it without so much as refuting any of my points and completely misinterpreting what I said.

            “If you compare how they played when JUST against #1 receivers, Sherman comes out ahead.”

            Where? It definitely isn’t in this article. Maybe point out similar competition and snap counts because you seem to be just making it up as you go.

            “So if Patrick Peterson’s snaps covered the #1 receiver 100% of the time
            and Sherman covered the #2 receiver 100% of the time, you would need to
            prove that the passer rating when throwing to the #1 receiver is 44
            points of passer rating.”

            This is under the presumption that passer rating isn’t flawed and boosted by turnovers heavily of which Sherman got many off of bad QBs(Eli and Palmer, two of the most intercepted QBs last year)

            You tried hard with your kiddy math but failed.

            “The difference is massive and you’re grasping at straws, and using homophobic nicknames to boot.”

            Cupcake is “homophobic”? You must sit down when you pee.

          • Christian

            so taking on the saints twice last year and being part of destroying both Manning brothers means all these stats are Sherman playing “bad QBs”? He’s played top quality receivers and QBs and gotten the same production. He shuts down the #1 or the #2 receiver. The Seahawks defense is incredibly predictable, because you KNOW where everyone is lining up. The team puts their #1 guy against the right CB because they don’t want him to struggle against Sherman. And our #2 guy STILL makes it hard on them. The fact that Maxwell is basically unheralded while putting up with teams shying away from Sherm should tell you how good Sherm is.

          • Edgar Martinez

            I bet Maxwell’s numbers are better than Peterson and Hayden’s as well. Much better. At this point I’d take Maxwell over both of them.

      • hctibasiaixelsyd

        PP is in the NFCW with Sherman… Why does no one understand that the Cardinals are Division Rivals?

        • Politellama

          And the fact is that facing the Cardinals offense is a lot easier of a matchup than the Seahawks offense, especially if you go back to the last 2 years before Palmer.

          • http://thedreamiscalling.isagenix.com/?sc_lang=en-US# John

            Yea…cept Sherman made Manning look stupid..thats what he does to everyone. including the Cardinals and the other 30 NFL teams

          • Tom Wallace

            I don’t think Sherman alone deserves the credit for making Manning look bad. That was a team effort.

          • eYeDEF

            I think he made Eli look pretty bad. Big bro, to his credit, was just smart enough to never attempt throwing his way.

          • Sport Page

            Yep, Manning looked stupid as he was completing a record number of passes in the Super Bowl.

          • BallHawk

            “Yep, Manning looked stupid as he was completing a record number of passes in LOSING the Super Bowl.”

            FIFY

          • Robert Snell

            Yep! And for his second super bowl with 3 turnovers 2 ints one brought back for a TD again that too! For his last two super bowls and a lost fumble… cough, cough!!

          • Ceefu

            Seahawks threw the ball among the least of all teams in the NFL last year. They also lack a ‘real’ #1 WR, like that of Fitz, and are a run heavy offense. So an argument could be made, that between AZ’s sub par QB and SEA’s run first offense, they end up being a wash.

        • Lord Mad

          PP didn’t get to face his own QB or lack of QBs the year or two before that. Russel Wilson has been probably the best QB in that division the past two years and Sherman has never faced him. The advantage is there. Who said I didn’t understand? I’m just making the point that Sherman faces much easier threats.

          • Foppas21

            Read the principals of Win Forever and you would, or should, realize that Sherm plays against Wilson more than any other Quarterback.

            Practice Is Everything

      • eYeDEF

        But in spite of supposedly being a lockdown corner Peterson was still among the top five corners targeted last year. Why? The passer rating in against in the 90 percentile goes a long way to explaining it. If Sherman was exploitable like that, QBs would exploit him to the same tune. He’s not so they stay away from him.

        • Lord Mad

          Peterson has never been a lockdown corner to me. There is only about 3-4 of those in the league and Peterson isn’t a top 5 corner for me anyway..he is top 10. He also does much more for the team than Sherman does for his on the field so this entire argument is specious without considering that. Sherman is more difficult to throw against than the other side of the field typically is sure..that doesn’t mean hie is a better CB.

          • Perfundle

            Considering what? The author has already noted that Peterson covers #1 receivers much more than Sherman does.

          • Lord Mad

            Peterson does KR/PR and occasionally plays offense. Also, I think the fact that PP playing all over the field should ultimately factor into his pay rate. That is a much harder job to do by far. Let PP or Hayden do the same thing and they will get similar results against much poorer competition.

      • Edgar Martinez

        Except for the fact that Sherman and Peterson play the same opponents every year, lol. And because Sherman defends quick passes so well says he is shadowing receivers.

  • Jeff

    Too bad Revis is not much of a team player, but more of a “me” player and that being his bank account. He is a phenomenal football player on the field, but not a big fan of “off the field” Revis

    • Thomas Holm

      I get where you are coming from and i have felt the same way about other players in the past, but the fact is that teams are not loyal to players, so why should players be loyal to the teams? You are an injury away from your career being over, so its important to get as much money as possible when you have your chance. Whether we like it or not, the NFL is a business and should be treated as such by all those involved.

  • Bob Easter

    You can use the “better players around him” and “doesn’t always isolate on the #1 receiver” arguments as tie breakers perhaps, or to move Sherm down if the next in line is even close, but certainly not to bridge a gap this huge.

    • Edgar Martinez

      People don’t like his personality, so they look for any reason to knock him down a peg or three. But he’s so head and shoulders better than any corner, the only way he won’t continue to be the best will be due to injury.

      • Jasper Vignone

        ED Reed Still Is overall a better DB in his prime.. Especially if he hadn’t been a SS for those 3 seasons

  • Greg

    I believe when comparing players you have to look at how that player would perform in the other players role. In this case, if Peterson or Haden played for Seattle in the same role Sherman does, don’t you think their numbers would be very similar to Sherman’s? Conversely, if you put Sherman in their roles, how would he fare?

    • eYeDEF

      There’s really no way to know. But you can’t downgrade Sherman’s performance just because you don’t know.

  • Mike

    Haden had a stretch last year during 10 games where he covered: AJ Green (twice), Calvin Johnson, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings, Torie Smith (twice), Dwayne Bowe, Jordy Nelson, and Stevie Johnson – the combination of these five pro-bowlers averaged less than 4 catches per game and 37 yards receiving (Haden gave up only a one yard TD during that stretch to Nelson).

    Last year, Seattle’s defensive front could apply more pressure quicker than Cleveland’s defensive front – this difference cannot be understated in helping Sherman. What % of throws were complete checkdowns because the defense did not allow the QB to get comfortable? What % of throws in Sherman’s direction were hurried?

    Sherman is very good but I would not marginalize the impact of the rest of Seattle’s defense and his not having to shadow each team’s #1 receiver in this comparison.

  • Andrew Maples

    I think this whole article isn’t very thorough. You can look at the stats all you want but that does very little to create a thorough evaluation. Sherman is basically asked to cover 1 side of the field (often against teams #2/#3’s) on a defense that has more Guys sitting back in Coverage (the often only rush 4 players at the line of scrimmage). BUT you fail to bring into perspective that opposing offenses often don’t have their Receivers running all the various routes because SEA has guys like Earl and Kam sitting in the middle of the field and LB’s there to cover the flats. So essentially Sherman isn’t asked or put under pressure to play the same ways as Peterson or Haden. Peterson and Haden are asked to play the opposing teams #1 which is obviously more difficult to cover than a #2 or #3. Peterson and Haden are at times asked to cover even TE’s as well which shows more versatility than Sherman. Peterson and Haden play on teams that often have to rush an extra defender to get pressure on the QB, which means less guys are there to cover the Middle and Flats which opens up the route -trees for receivers making their job exponentially harder than Sherman’s. They also don’t play with superb Safeties like Sherman does which again makes Peterson and Haden’s job even more difficult. (yes Haden had Ward and Peterson had Tyrann, But that is still only 1 safety to Sherman’s 2)

    Sherman obviously does a great job doing what he is asked to do and really takes advantage of the guys that play around him, but to me he is more of a “one-trick pony” compared to the versatility that Peterson and Haden have to overcome with the way they are required to play.

    The Stats are also skewed because (take Peterson for example) he was “charged” with an extra 70+ yards allowed and a TD given up on a play to Mega-tron, even though it was Dansby’s job to cover that 7 yard inside slant. Peterson was right there and had the perfect view to see Dansby literally make an INT and so he started to reverse up field to take a lateral or even block for Dansby… BUT Dansby let the ball go right through his arms and (i guess according to PFF) be deemed non-comparable statistically to Sherman. A Johnson made 2 very freakish TD’s as well last season that literally no one (including Sherman) could have defended better than Peterson. Sometimes the throw is just that perfect and there is nothing a defender can do. but again Peterson gets Knocked “statistically” because of it.

    • Darnell

      I get what you are trying to say, and full credit to PP for following #1s; but intentions and good effort are only worth so much. You would really like to see something better than a 91.3 opponent passer rating against, regardless of who Peterson is covering.

      When Sherman decided that he wanted to shadow an opponent it was week 2 and it was game over for Boldin. Heck, this argument could be twisted as #1s are ducking Sherman when they go to the opposite side of the field – because they know where Sherman is gonna be, come find him.

      Further, if we are to believe that Sherman isn’t seeing #1s, that means that Maxwell is seeing them consistently – yet, without having the numbers in front of me, I am guessing his coverage numbers are significanly better than Peterson’s (while seeing #1 WRs).

      • Andrew Maples

        Which is why I brought up Sherman benefiting from having a decent 4-man pass rush (allows more guys to worry about the middle of the field and the flats) and also that he has 2 very top echelon Safeties playing beside him as well. Peterson, who only had Tyrann through week 14 last year also didn’t even have him on certain downs because Tyrann was moved to slot-CB. So essentially he had R Johnson and Yeremiah Bell as his 2 Safeties while Sherman had Earl and Kam

        • eYeDEF

          I think you’re underselling Arizona’s pass rush. Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, and John Abraham were quite effective at rushing the passer last year. Honey Badger is also a good safety, the best taken in the 2012 draft. He might not be Earl Thomas, but to say that Peterson doesn’t benefit from playing on a high level defense with a good pass rush just isn’t accurate. Furthermore, just because Peterson draws the assignment to cover opposing tight ends doesn’t mean he’s effective at it. I think that was a major thrust of the article. So calling him more ‘versatile’ just because he draws the assignment isn’t accurate either.

          • Andrew Maples

            I think you are sort of missing the point that when teams are still able to get pressure on the opposing QB while rushing 3 or 4, instead of 5 or 6, than there is extra bodies available in coverage that helps prevent teams from being able to leave Sherman having to be held accountable as the only responsible defender on more routes.

            For instance, If AZ rushes 5 or more defenders on opposing team drop backs nearly 50% of the time (highest rate in the NFL) than that leaves less LB’s available to take away the crossing, square-in, slant (etc) routes so more often than not Sherman is at an advantage knowing that there is additional help in the middle. Also with better safeties, Sherman knows there is help on the Deep In, Post (etc) routes so him at an even more benefitial starting point. I know you mention the guys that AZ has in Peterson’s favor but when you really think about it. 1. AZ still has to use more that just Dockett, Campbell and Abraham to rush the passer (again, 5-or more rushed over 49% of the time on drop backs) and even Tyrann isn’t used as a safety in various packages, he is moved to Slot-CB, so that leaves R Johnson and Y Bell. So Sherman overall is helped by only being asked to cover the opposing #1 27% of the time (lesser talent), while also have nearly 50% of the routes “blanketed” with extra defenders.

            To me, it is “way closer” than this article headlines, and there are some very valid points in favor of both Peterson and Haden that makes it extremely debatable.

          • eYeDEF

            But you’re not really being fair because safety help will have a tendency to cheat/lean towards one side to give support to the weaker corner with the beneficiary last year being Maxwell and, before he was suspended, Browner. They knew Browner doesn’t have Sherman’s speed and if Maxwell has a weakness compared to Sherman it would be at the susceptibility to the fade route. They’re also going to cheat towards the side more likely to be thrown at, which is going to be the opposite side to Sherman’s. They were very comfortable leaving Sherman to fend on his own without help. So I still think the safety help you’re suggesting he has is overblown. I could also make the case that because Arizona had the best run defense in the league, that was of benefit to the corners like Peterson who are normally expected to provide help should the front seven not make the tackle. Because Arizona had such an effective run defense, on play action the corners could more easily cheat back and not have to worry about providing run support because they had such a dominant run defense. The bottom line really though is the 91.3% opposing passer rating against Peterson compared to Sherman’s 47.3%, and that Peterson was one of the most targeted cornerbacks by opposing QBs whereas Sherman was the least targeted. No matter how you slice it, those aren’t facts a #1 corner who fancies himself the best in the league should have any business being part of and it’s such a huge discrepancy that it just about makes the whole argument for Peterson moot. Those facts alone show that not only is Peterson exploitable, he’s really not feared or respected by the QBs that go against him. I think a far stronger case can be made for Haden given that he played in the Browns defense, which was still a top defense but not in the league of the Cards D. But I just don’t see how you can make any sort of compelling case for Peterson at all. It’s hard to see him as anything but overrated.

          • Andrew Maples

            Im not trying to overblow anything. Just simply refering to additional nuances that aren’t being discussed in this article.

            I think we all can appreciate the stat that is discussed in this article that refers to Sherman only covering the opposing #1 27% compared to Peterson’s and Haden’s -above 50%

            with that being said, its just as important to understand that on top of Sherman being lined up on teams #2/#3 talent over 1/4th of the time more than Peterson or Haden is the fact that with 2 solid safeties alongside Sherman and additional “non-Pass Rusher’s” available to help cover certain routes that Sherman’s individual assignment may run on any snap is even more beneficial to the stats presented in this article than the reality of who is worth more.

            You keep referring to passer rating but why should Peterson’s allowed passer rating be effected when an ILB (Dansby) allows a 7 route to be completed (regardless of if it was Peterson’s individual assignment) that ultimately takes an INT away from the team and directly translates into 70 additional yards and a TD being “charged” to Peterson. What about when a team is given a very questionable 4th down penalty that moves the sticks and allows a QB to make an “indefensible” pass that translates into again more yards (and/or TD) being charged to a CB (and ultimately used in these stats).

            To me the Stats are skewed, which is misleading. There are a lot of “over looked” data that is not represented in this argument as well, which is also misleading. There is also data represented in this article that is just plain being undervalued, even more misleading.

            Time will tell who is overall the better corner but to say its an even fight is ridiculous when relying on the use of common stats and therefore absurd when equating the financial worth of each CB.

          • Andrew Maples

            I mean these stats even have *(s) alongside the INT stats that say “result of play; Not necessarily by targeted defender”

            to me that says, Sherman’s defender ran an “Square-In” route and the ILB that was “left over” from the team choosing to only rush 4 (instead of 5 or 6) was able to step in front and make the INT… essentially, Peterson has lesser guys there to “step in front” and even if there is a LB or S there, their talent level is inferior to those that play around Sherman

          • Andrew Maples

            I guess we all need to get better acquainted with each teams style of defense.

            From an AZ standpoint its about stoping the Run firstly. and they are #1 in doing so. That then forces into “more obvious” passing situations. With AZ concentrated so much on run first, that effects the pass rush talent there to create an effective 4-man rush (honestly, its not realistic to think that every good run stopper is just as effective in pass-rush… its not like there are a bunch of guys out there in the NFL, along “front-7’s” known for being superior in both categories). Therefore, AZ is forced (in order to become the least bit efficient) on passing downs, to rush 5 or more defenders.

            Ultimately, when you have a shut down corner like Peterson, you want to run a man-press scheme on both sides of the ball to 1. limit the amount of Zone/Prevent/Shell you have to play (overall these Defensive schemes are designed to keep everything in front of the defenders while also concentrating added defenders to certain “weakness” areas of the defense depending on the strengths of the opposition within any given week. And 2. give the defense an extra defender (or 2) to roam the field in hopes of reading various QB scrambles (doesn’t Peterson play Kap and RW 4 times a year? So wouldn’t the Team need to “scheme” around those additional threats that Sherman’s team doesn’t have to deal with when playing Palmer or Bradford?). Screens are also important to save a “spy” defender for. A Mis-audable “hot read” (Defense shows blitz, expects a reactionary audible from the QB, and has the extra defender(s) to attack the projected quick pass while also having solid coverage as a blanket) is also a benefit to teams that want to play that straight up kind of defense.

            Now its important to understand that teams can rarely afford 2 shut down man to man guys, and equally unrealistic to come across 2 in a few drafts that are pro-bowl caliber and signed up long term enough to provide longevity at the position.

            AZ is trying to have that dual sided man press by bringing in Cro and using his time in SD under current Cardinal CB Coach Ross and film from his time with Revis in NYJ to allow that extra defender to rush the passer (again they do it on 50 percent of opponent drop backs) and potentially an additional to spy the QB for a potential hot read (on obvious passing downs when AZ has succeeded in the run) or even the scramble/draw/screen.

            Essentially Peterson doesn’t have the talent around him to produce the benefits that Sherman gets with the better safeties and effective 4-man pass rushers.

            Peterson is left out to dry some times and in plays at a serious dis-advantage (statistically) in AZ compared to Sherman in SEA. People are saying Peterson is more valuable because of his ability on ST or even Offense but I don’t think you have to look past the way he plays on Defense to really have enough reason to legitimately argue that he is just as valuable as any of the top paid CB’s in the league.

            Numbers Never Lie… Im not trying to say they are here… Im just saying the numbers we are looking at are incomplete in nature and don’t provide the whole accurate story

          • Andrew Maples

            To me, even if we were presented with statistical data that showed the number of yards allowed, TD’s allowed, on plays where realistically it wasn’t the targeted defenders fault would be important to the argument. Throw in how those plays effected “allowed Passer Rating” would be ideal as well.

            As far as the “potential benefits” that have been presented that presume that Sherman is better equipped to produce “statistically” by playing in a “more friendly Seattle defensive environment”, those statistical properties could be presented by showing average variances among what would be considered average among CB’s facing similar like opportunities.

            For instance, some would argue that Sherman plays 1 side of the field (and often against #2/#3 depth WR’s… So if that was evaluated, wouldn’t you want to know where the average stats were for CB’s in similar situations (asked to cover 1 side of the field (against similar #2/#3 talent)?

            Not saying I have the data to provide an authentic database, but what if the results showed something to the effect of…. “on average, CB’s that were asked to cover opposing team #1’s less than 33% of the time, had better overall statistics (as in the ones outlined in this article) than 80% of all CB’s.” wouldn’t that be a stat thats important to understanding this argument? What if the stat data showed that CB’s that were asked to play #1 WR’s over 50% of the passing downs, while also playing for a team that rushes a 5th or more pass defender on those plays while also having to play on a proverbial island (all over the field, straight man-press” were responsible for an overly massive chunk of league-wide yards/TD’s allowed within the same stats that are being used in this article. Wouldn’t that seemingly show that Peterson/Haden are being held to a higher standard “schematically” than Sherman?

            This article is making a huge assumption when saying that “money may be close, but the production isn’t even close..

            Sherman and Peterson and Haden are all worth “top-dollar” but for those to say Peterson is a “money pit” waiting to happen are being ignorant into their approach to this topic

          • eYeDEF

            You keep trying to dismiss the stats and claim they are skewed. But there’s really a much easier way to reach a verdict right now. Not ‘time will tell’. I challenge you to watch the tape on a game by game and play by play basis and see for yourself. Because whatever picture of discrepancy is portrayed by the stats in this article that you claim is ‘skewed’, actually becomes even more accurate and pronounced if you bothered to just watch the tape. If you compare their play with the simple eye test and you’re being honest you’ll recognize that Peterson doesn’t hold a candle to Sherman in any aspect of cornerbacking. Peterson’s footwork is poor, and he allows himself to get easily outmuscled by bigger receivers when he really *shouldn’t*. Unlike Sherman he’s not an aggressive defensive back and doesn’t do a good job battling for position and fighting for jump balls, and doesn’t run shoulder to shoulder on tight coverage running out of route breaks, making him very frustrating to watch. He plays too tentative and seems to shy away from physical matchups. That’s fine, you don’t have to be a physically dominating cornerback to be elite, but to make up for it you need to be technically proficient, which Peterson is NOT. And he was schooled far too often this past season, just watch some of the games where the opposing receiver racked up big numbers against him. He too often relies on his athleticism to recover from his poor technique in all the other areas of his play. He was consistently susceptible to mental lapses like when megatron caught 6 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns against him. The first pass Calvin caught right in front of Peterson and he was in perfect position to make a play on the ball, but got distracted by a linebacker underneath the slant route and megatron was off to the races. These sorts of lapses were far too typical for Peterson all season long. Against Jimmy Graham his mental lapse comes at the end of the game, and it’s all on Peterson. He doesn’t square up Graham when he’s moving towards the LOS and he’s stupidly watching the QB while his teammates are sending the blitz. WTF is he doing? Peterson’s just not very smart like that. It lets Graham cut inside with Peterson no time to recover. Or when he goes against a clearly past-his-prime Steve Smith who is nowhere near Peterson’s physical talents right now, yet he lets Smith expose him badly. He also loses focus towards the end of the game, allowing Greg Olsen to run past him down the seam as he’s too busy stupidly watching the QB at the snap. The fourth quarter was a mess for him, not only does Smith repeatedly expose him but he even lets frickin Ted Ginn JR beat him on a corner route. There are times Peterson will show flashes of what he can be if he could keep his head in the game. He’ll play wallpaper tight coverage sometimes, like he did against Vincent Jackson. But he can’t do it with any consistency and like I said before, his technique is poor. His bump and run coverage really sucks for a supposedly ‘elite’ corner as it’s easy for more refined receivers to exploit him coming off the line as Golden Tate did to him in their first matchup. He has a tendency to overfocus on things, like watching the QB or receiver too long. Other times he’ll show excellent awareness and ball skills so I’m not saying every play was poor, but to be an elite corner you’ve got to keep focused for the entirety of a game and sustain over multiple games. Peterson would sometimes put together a complete game, but it would be ridiculous to watch how inconsistent he is from game to game. Peterson lacks that consistency where Sherman does not. Sherman had two poor games all season. Peterson had too many. He let Kendall Wright school him when they played Tennessee and that maybe was inevitable as Wright is very quick and an excellent route runner while Peterson has poor footwork and struggles through breaks in routes. And in the finale against SF on three plays Peterson just simply loses his footing. DOH! Sorry but if you bothered to watch the tape it’s just simply no contest. At this stage in his career Peterson is simply not in the same league as Revis or Sherman and it’s really not even close. The mistakes I’m describing can’t be chalked up to his defense not being good enough to provide him great support. Nope, these are all mistakes that are on him where he blows the play because of his own mental lapses. If you want to claim the stats don’t provide an accurate picture, the only way to provide a coherent argument is to watch the tape yourself. And if you did, you’d see the stats do a fantastic job of exposing Peterson.

          • Perfundle

            While I agree with all this (was this taken from Fahey’s analysis of Peterson?), you really, really need some paragraph breaks.

          • Perfundle

            Yes, you can certainly find examples where Peterson was not as fault on a completion credited to him, but you can find the same for Sherman too. It’s not only your guy that stats are unfair towards.

      • Woody

        The argument can’t be twisted. If WR1s was to choose, they would have chosen not to be covered by Peterson and Haden all day. The thing is, they don’t get to choose.

  • Darnell

    These contracts have to be mouthwatering for Byron Maxwell.

    I don’t see any way Seattle can keep him away from UFA next offseason. And if he has 16+ games in 2014 equivalent to his starts in 2013, his stats (at least by this site’s measuring) could rival Sherman’s.

  • Lord Mad

    Wish they threw Revis in the mix here. Awesome write up!

  • factbased

    misread something, will edit

    • eYeDEF

      On top of that teams were less effective targeting Sherman isolated on
      his island than they were in taking on Peterson and Haden shadowing top
      targets to either side.

      I think the above implies that against number ones, Sherman was still more effective than either Peterson or Haden.

    • Perfundle

      Even that breakdown isn’t really sufficient. Calvin Johnson and Chris Givens are both WR1’s, for instance, but there’s rather a big difference there.

  • Dave

    I know this discussion is regarding the top young cornerback and
    comparing their contracts, but it would have been nice to see Revis and
    maybe a couple of other top cornerbacks included to see how these
    corners compare to the rest of the league. Revis was still great last
    year so itd be interesting to see if Sherman has clearly overtaken him
    as far as being the best corner in the NFL

  • [email protected]

    There are good reasons not to move Sherman. First the Seahawks show confidence in even their 5th string corner to cover any receiver within the scheme. Second the defense functions much better when everybody knows exactly where everybody is and what theyre going to do. This would be much harder if everybody was moving around.

  • Camikaze

    So many people are reacccchhhhiiinngggg for “excuses” as to discredit the stats that Sherman has posted against both Haden and Petersen. Stop being biased and give Sherman the credit – pride makes the mighty fall. Step outside of your loyalty-to-my-team shoes for one minute and re-read this argument; better yet have a friend/girlfriend who knows nothing about this read the article and have them give their assessment. I bet they point to Sherman. BIASED opinions hold no merit – I would take Sherman any day of the week. Why? Because he studies film like no other – his IQ is off the charts which means he retains information much better than those two – and he plays mind games with his opponents as well. Yes he talks trash but he backs it up too. The mind game is just as important as the physical game and he excels at both.

    • Andrew Maples

      My Girlfriend just the article and of course thinks that Sherman’s Stats are better but is troubled by Sherman’s lack of covering the opposing teams #1. Also brought up a good point that some teams play more defensive snaps than others and was mystified that the article left out that bit of information as Peterson’s targets may be ballooned because AZ had to defend the pass more snaps than Sherman. When bringing up to her some other arguments in favor of Haden or Peterson (Sherman has better Safties, plays on a Defense that doesn’t blitz as much leaving more defenders to help cover the middle and flats, and various others that were posted by bloggers on this and other sites) she felt very compelled to make an argument for Peterson or Haden.

      She also understood my personal opinion that the stats are skewed because Sherman, Haden and Peterson could have had certain stats “charged to them” even though it was a more on the opposing QB making a “indefensible throw” or even a teammate that was responsible for a certain route.

      She ultimately said the article is lacking a lot of thoroughness and seems to only include the basic numbers that seems to benefit Sherman’s case more so than Peterson’s or Haden’s.

      • Perfundle

        I don’t see the article giving any particular focus to the number of targets for each DB. It’s mainly focused on passer rating, which is a rate stat. But even there you could argue that Peterson was targeted so much precisely because he was worse than Sherman.

        • Andrew Maples

          So when a guy is “quoted” as being targeted when in fact the CB was expecting an ILB to spy the Quick Slant and that play leads to a 70-yd completion for a TD, youre trying to tell me that the passer rating isn’t being effected by this 1 play? 1 play literally added a huge chunk of yards (nearly 20% increase in certain categories), raised the Allowed completion rate, and also added a TD all instead of a would be “resulted INT” that would have benefited Peterson’s case within the articles presented stats the same way that it shows Sherman with INT’s that were essentially a different defender INT a ball that was targeted to the WR that Sherman was responsible for.

          • Andrew Maples

            The Article even concludes that there isn’t enough explanation for the discrepancies in stats yet here I am showing legitimate proof that just 1 play could add a chunk to the stats variance. It also concludes that Sherman is so far beyond the other CB’s statistically that there isn’t even room to discuss it, knowing full well that Sherman benefits from having a more efficient 4-man pass rush (leaving extra SEA defenders there to bloat the Sherman stats that were presented in this article on various short-middle/flat routes), Better Safeties there on the back end as well (to bloat the stats on even more routes), and overall going up against weaker WR competition barely 50% as much as the other players compared in this article. All these things, if taken into consideration wouldn’t just benefit Haden and Peterson more, but would also be less-beneficial towars Sherman as well. Ultimately the “Gap” portrayed in this Article is bogus and a display of compete bias (and/or) lack of thoroughness.

          • Andrew Maples

            According to these Stats, Both Peterson and Sherman’s allowed Completion % is better when the Team doesn’t blitz. Sherman’s is even more of a drop off (from 65% wth the Blitz, to 44.7% without the blitz) but can’t that be attributed to better safeties, especially considering AZ blitz nearly 50% of the time and AZ doesn’t have those extra defenders there to help “boost” the various stats used in this article.

            On top of that, according to these stats, Peterson was actually targeted less than Sherman against non blitzes. I know one could assume that, because SEA predominantly doesn’t Blitz, and AZ does, than there is less opportunity for Peterson’s guy to be targeted in non-blitz situations. HOWEVER, I would say that some teams obviously are stuck in Passing Defense more than others. How do we know that Peterson didn’t have to play on just as many Non-Blitz Downs as Sherman? AZ could easily have as many “defensive passing snaps” as SEA (and may be even more) in both Blitz (rushing 5 or more) and non-Blitz categories.

            To me the article is incomplete and just plain biased

          • eYeDEF

            but can’t that be attributed to better safeties, especially considering
            AZ blitz nearly 50% of the time and AZ doesn’t have those extra
            defenders there to help “boost” the various stats used in this article.

            Nope, it really can’t. The QB still has to throw the ball, and the safety help will be there regardless of which side thrown to. Like I said before, the safety help is even going to be tilted away from Sherman to provide better support for Maxwell or Browner. Yet they still choose to scheme away from Sherman. Meanwhile, QBs continue to target Peterson and exploit him even though there’s supposed to be a much weaker corner on the other side of the field. So your point fails.

            To me the article is incomplete and just plain biased

            This is especially funny to be reading from you since if anyone is not only biased here but completely off their rocker it’s you. You keep bringing up bizarre, off the wall hypotheticals that really don’t factor in on game day and don’t impact decision making on the field on any level. But in this case you’re just talking gibberish because your reasoning is incomplete and just plain biased.

          • Perfundle

            You haven’t responded to my point that Sherman also gets dinged for plays that weren’t his fault too. Neither have you responded to eYeDEF’s comment about his actual play. You can come up with any number of reasons why Peterson’s stats look so bad, but just watch the two of them play and anybody with any sense will tell you that Sherman is clearly better. It’s too bad that Fahey’s website isn’t working right now, but he watched every single snap of Sherman, Haden and Peterson and showed that Peterson’s technique is simply inferior to the other two.

          • JDV

            that would perhaps be the ball into the endzone for Hakeem Nicks that Sherman tipped back (yh he’s done this before) for Earl Thomas to intercept against the Giants.
            So as well as breaking up the pass he had the athleticism and field awareness to ensure the team had a turnover!

            http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000298281/Seahawks-get-their-5th-interception

            think this bats that myth away

  • River Powell

    Great article and breakdown. Where do Revis’ numbers fit in with these three?

    • Edgar Martinez

      Revis had a pretty bad year from all accounts. And he hasn’t been the same since his injury issues. So I’m guessing the numbers wouldn’t be good.

      • eYeDEF

        He still rated out as the #1 rated PFF corner last year during the reg season. Not sure how you can say he had a ‘pretty bad year’ from all accounts. All you have to do is watch the tape to see how Revis got stronger as the season went on and finished looking like his old dominating self. In spite of being used in zone, he was no slouch.

  • Tyreeceholmes

    Long story short..Sherman is a great CB…but to say he is “gods gift to CB’s” and head and shoulders among the best in the business is a farce..he might very well be #1 but the overwhelming success STATISTICALLY is a result of the entire defense and it’s scheme, not purely his ability….but once again he is a hell of a baller.

    • Edgar Martinez

      The brilliance of the Seattle scheme is it’s simplicity. It’s just old-school straight up smash mouth defense. The reason it works is their players are faster and more physical than the opponent. So in essence it is mainly the ability of the players, not the scheme necessarily. They just know how to draft incredibly well.

  • JohnnyB

    Kind of silly now that we have access to the All-22, to try to rate cornerbacks with stats when 9/10ths of their play doesn’t generate any stats, isn’t it?

  • Robert Snell

    Revis is still the best followed by the rest!!

  • Manuel Granados

    I don’t like Sherman, but the guy is a beast. He has a lot of help from a fearsome front four and LB corps that scares anyone. But he is still the best corner in the league right now.
    If Cleveland had a better defense Haden would be contesting against Sherman because he is that good, sadly he doesn’t have so much help. I’d say he’s a clear #2 behind Sherman.
    And PP makes those around him better, but he’s not in the top 3 discussion. Maybe this season when he has a fire lit under him for comparing himself to Sherman and Haden he’ll show us what he is made of.
    Obviously, CB needy teams would be happy to have any of those 3 in their squad.

  • Rich

    Just wanted to point out , if Haden or Peterson were on the Seahawks they would be asked to do the same thing as Sherman . I believe they wouldn’t even come close to matching his production. Sherman is the best in the game today and will go down as the best in the history of the game.

    • ThinkerT

      Well then, I believe that if you had Sherman on the Browns or Cardinals and asked to do the same thing as Peterson and Haden his numbers would look similar or worse than theirs. Padding your stats by going against non-#1 WRs 73% of the time is much easier than getting great stats going against #1 WRs 50%+ of the time.

      Sherman’s a great CB, but until an apples-to-apples comparison can be made, the possibility that he’s just padding his stats against the weaker receivers will keep me from saying that he’s the best in the game.

      • eYeDEF

        Not sure how you can call it ‘padding your stats’. Sherman went against #1 receivers 27% of the time. Peterson 55%, and Haden 65%. It’s not stat padding to point out that while covering #1 receivers Sherman blows away his peers in his coverage of them.

  • Sport Page

    Just a quick scan of the article, but I didn’t notice any weighting for the quality of each cornerback’s other defensive teammates. Sherman clearly has an advantage there, followed by Peterson and then Haden.

  • ThinkerT

    I couldn’t disagree more that quality of opposition should be disregarded so extensively as is being done here. By that logic, anyone who puts up great stats in the preseason should be rated among the best players in the league. After all, it’s performance, not the role or quality of opposition, that really matters, right? It’s an extreme example, of course, but follows logically – after all, if a difference between covering a #1 WR and #2-or-worse WR doesn’t really matter, why should the difference between a starting WR and a preseason WR matter? At the end of the day both are just a quality difference between two players at the same position.

    The more honest representation would be that it’s impossible to determine by direct comparison because of the difference of role. Sherman is obviously a great CB and one of the best in the league. However, it’s intellectually dishonest to call someone the best with statements like “there simply isn’t much of a debate to be had” when a player hasn’t been tested to the extent of other players.

    Bottom line is, someone can’t be called the “best” at their position if they’re not being tested by the “best”. They can be speculated as such, but until they’re tested, it can’t be claimed definitively.

    • Adam Smith

      QBs don’t test Sherman for a reason.

  • Michael Bernazzani

    nuff said. Sorry Patricia, it’s not even CLOSE. Sherm has it on LOCK, pun intended.

  • Woody

    To me, comparing stats when one guy covers WR1 27 % of the time and the two others does it 55 % and 65 % of the time just isn’t fair. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000279846/Andre-Johnson-s-pretty-pair-of-TD-catches This is what a WR1 can do to you. I can’t really come up with many WR2 in the league who could make plays like that. Alshon Jeffrey is one. Eric Decker, maby. And Jordy Nelson, if you consider him a WR2, I personally think he’s better than Cobb.

  • Woody

    PFF ranks Sherman over Haden and Peterson with the argument “In terms of assignment then, Sherman is not tested in the same way as Haden and Peterson. However, the key point must always be performance within a given role, not simply the role being executed.”

    Yet, they ranked Lynch over Charles in the top 101 players of the year, even though Charles clearly had better stats. Some of the reasoning was that was that he had a subpar O-Line.

    So, if you can’t use Sherman’s situation against him, how can you use the situation as an argument for Lynch? They ranked a 4.2 yards/carry RB as the 10th best player in the league. Are we seeing some Seahawks bias here?

  • Tim

    An additional discussion that you can’t overlook when trying to make these comparisons is the quality of the defense as a whole. If the defensive front is pressuring the QB consistently that is going to really boost the CBs play. Conversely, a supremely deep and talented backfield (legion of boom) should actually diminish a ‘good’ CB because the marginal skill difference will be less. However, even in a talented backfield a ‘great’ CB will still seperate himself. The fact that Sherman plays with the likes of Maxwell, Thomas, Chancellor and Browner and teams still shy away from him demonstrates how elite he really is. Even if Sherman’s main edge is purely reputation…if that reputation can limit 1/3 of the field then he’s worth the money. I don’t follow the other CBs closely enough to see how their defense as a whole impacts their play.