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Five to Watch: 5. Richard Sherman

Posted Jan 26, 2014

Independent analyst Andrew Mason takes a closer look at Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- From watching Demaryius Thomas the last four seasons, you know he's anything but timid. He has prodigious size for a wide receiver, and uses it well. 

So, as he offered the requisite and deserved praise for Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, he embraced the challenge of going up against a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder who has made a strong case to be the league's defensive player of the year.

“He’s a great player. I’d love to have that matchup to show what kind of player I am," said Thomas. "I don’t know if he’ll match up, but like I said, he’s a great player.”

If the Seahawks use Sherman as they have throughout the vast majority of the season to date, he won't shadow Thomas, unless Thomas happens to line up on the right side. Sherman is a left cornerback, and typically stays there, with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn trusting in Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond to handle their areas.

But Sherman has not been the center of attention this week because of his league-leading eight interceptions or the 44.5 quarterback rating for opposing passers when throwing at him, according to the numbers compiled by ProFootballFocus.com.

Instead, Sherman has caught public flak for his comments to Fox's Erin Andrews in the heated moments following last week's NFC Championship Game. 

But the vitriol toward Sherman is misguided, given the contentious and highly-charged atmosphere of his duels with Michael Crabtree during the taut contest. One must also consider the emotion of making the deflection to set up one of the signature interceptions in NFL history, given the magnitude of the game and the situation within it.

Champ Bailey's quiet focus isn't for everyone; each player has his own personality to which he must be true. No one understands that more than Bailey himself.

“Well we’re all different personalities. I don’t have a problem with his personality," said Bailey. "For one, if you don’t want somebody to talk, you have to give them a reason not to, that’s it. I mean he’s probably going to talk anyway but at the same time he is what he is. 

"I like his game. He’s not just too crazy with (it), it’s just that you guys (the media) seem to make it a lot more crazy than what it is.”

For the NFL's 75th anniversary in 1994, the league released a collection of articles and essays about the sport called "A Game of Passion." That quote applies to Sherman's play. But it also mixes with calculation and study. Sherman is diligent, and admitted that he began watching tape of Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense "the next morning" after the conference championships.

"It’s as if he’s an offensive coordinator out there," said Sherman. "At any given time he can change any play, any protection, any scheme. 

Of course, Sherman also wrote on TheMMQB.com Jan. 3 that Manning's passes "will be accurate on time, but he throws ducks." (link here: http://mmqb.si.com/2014/01/03/richard-sherman-smartest-nfl-quarterbacks/) Sherman revealed both sides of his personality as a player: the precise student who absorbs every byte of information and the brash, candid personality who speaks his mind, consequences be damned.

And Sherman didn't back down from the "ducks" comment this week; instead, he doubled down.

"He still does it," Sherman said. "I mean, they’re accurate as ever, they’re accurate as ever. He throws spirals and they’re there, or he throws a wobbler, and it still gets there just the same. He really doesn’t care how he delivers the ball because it gets there just the same, accurately and on point. That’s what makes him a great quarterback. 

"Sometimes he’ll catch the ball and he won’t catch it with the laces, and he’ll throw it without the laces and get it exactly where he wants to get it. He doesn’t care how it looks and the receivers don’t care because all of them have ten touchdowns right now, and everybody is getting what they deserve."

That's something Sherman hopes to prevent. But he's never had to prepare for as many elite targets in one game as he will this week.