Richard Sherman earns career-low PFF grade against Packers
It finally came—an “off” day for cornerback Richard Sherman. Against Green Bay on Sunday, Sherman recorded his career-worst PFF grade.
If you only look at Sherman’s base statistics, you might wonder where a -3.2 grade comes from. He only gave up one reception all game in primary coverage, though he was cleanly beaten on that play (this is why grades will always trump statistics, even advanced ones).
The touchdown Sherman “gave up” was credited to Earl Thomas (-1.4) as primary coverage. With the Seahawks in their cover-3 shell, Thomas vacated the middle of the field when Aaron Rodgers started to move out of the pocket, allowing Packers receiver James Jones to run away from Sherman and into the space that should have been occupied by the free safety.
When the quarterback bails from the pocket like that, most teams will convert whatever coverage is being run into straight man-coverage for the resulting scramble drill. Instead of sticking to your zones, the opposing player in your zone at that moment becomes your focus; you “plaster” onto him and go where he goes. In this sense, Sherman still receives a downgrade on the play, because when the play becomes plaster for Sherman and everybody else, he should no longer expect help. He gets beat with Jones running away from him, but the ball is caught in the area that Earl Thomas should have been controlling, so both players receive negative grades for the play.
For his part, Thomas rolling to the side he did made sense, as most quarterbacks rolling out to one side of the field will throw to that side. Aaron Rodgers is not your typical quarterback, however; Thomas overplayed his hand and was caught out of place by the pass back to the area he had vacated.
But Sherman’s grade didn’t come from just that one play. He was also called for two coverage penalties, both on rookie wide receiver Ty Montgomery. He also missed a pair of tackles, one on a run play and one on a screen.
Much has been made of the fact that Sherman spent some time in the slot in Week 1, but against the Packers he lined up inside just three times; he filled his familiar spot of left corner on the other 68 defensive snaps. Moving around was not the cause of his poor performance in this game, and this is not some great indication that he cannot shadow receivers the way some of the other top corners in the league can.
What we saw last night is that even the league’s best corners get beat sometimes, and even a player as talented and consistently excellent as Richard Sherman can have a bad day at the office. When your competition is Aaron Rodgers, the league’s best quarterback, it’s especially easy to have that off night.