Sherman vs Revis: A competitive standpoint

Posted by Uptown Murf On April – 12 – 2013

"Darrelle Revis vs Richard Sherman"

The competitive banter between cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, (currently of the New York Jets) and Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks grew to epic proportions. Engaged in debate on who is the best corner currently playing in the NFL, the two took to social media, print media, and television to state their respective cases. I’ve seen the debate broken down by statistics. I’ve heard pundits and fans alike. All of this is cool per se. I just haven’t seen it broken down the way I personally would like…By game film!

As most people who know me can attest, I record football games and transfer them to tape to re-watch over and over. I have been doing this since maybe 1998 with college and pro football. So imagine the collection I have. Doing this has afforded me the opportunity to see most of the players in the NFL from the infancy stage of their careers all the way to retirement in some cases. It also affords me the opportunity to study schemes and personnel with the most tangible thing available. I’ve studied both Revis and Sherman since they were in college. Here’s the breakdown.

Richard Sherman who I first saw play at Stanford, was actually the leading receiver on the team. He actually played receiver his first 3 seasons on campus. A knee injury costs him his junior year. Subsequently in the off-season  the coaching staff convinced him to make the best decision of his career and switch to corner. Playing defense was little rough on Sherman as he was abused at times, including a complete clinic put on him by future Seahawk teammate Golden Tate in a prime-time game against Notre Dame. (Tate had 10 catches for 201 yards and 3 TD’s) Despite being raw at his new position, you could tell that with some seasoning he could be a very unique and effective player. Standing at 6’3 with long arms and decent short area agility, Sherman could easily match-up physically with some of the physical ” freaks” we see at receiver these days. His 195 lbs are distributed pretty svelte.

The jump from his junior year to his senior was really good. His technique had gotten a lot better, which in turn, allowed him to play faster. His confidence and swagger on the field really reigned supreme. He excelled in man coverage as his long wingspan allowed him to control receivers at the line of scrimmage and knock them off their routes. This improvement culminated with Sherman being drafted in the 4th round by the upstart Seattle Seahawks.

Darrelle Revis by all accounts has been the consensus best corner since he stepped on the field his rookie year in 2007. Standing 5’11 and weighing 198 lbs, Revis is the perfect blend of agility, technique, power, and confidence. He also has 4.38 speed which ties all those other aforementioned attributes together. Revis has terrorized all the top receivers – game in and game out. In the Jets’ defensive scheme, Revis shadows the top receiving threat all game long. This means he can spend one game playing the slot, (i.e against Wes Welker and the Patriots) as well as both field and boundary corner positions.

Richard Sherman on the other hand is predominantly a left cornerback. With offenses being so versatile – he could possibly get matched up on the least dominant receiver most of the game. To me this is what ultimately separates Revis from all other top corners in the league, including Sherman. The difficulty of ones job becomes heightened when you factor in strength of competition. For instance; If a fighter goes on a 10 fight win streak on his way to a belt – is it more impressive then a champion with 10 title defenses? Although both have won 10 in a row. The champions fights are all against #1 contenders. The challenger could have fought a couple of guys with losing records on his way to 10. With this being said, Sherman does not have the pressure of matching up with elite talent on every play like Darrelle Revis.

I was able to find a common opponent for both of them in Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills. Johnson is a match-up nightmare as he is the most unique route runner in the NFL. He can create separation at the line with basketball like moves that confuse even the best of defender.  At 6’2 – 210 lbs he can out-muscle defenders as well. He’s definitively a great test to settle this debate. Let’s take a look at a few plays I diagrammed for this article.

First up is the week 1 matchup between Revis and Stevie Johnson. Studying this game left no doubt in my mind as to how great Darrelle Revis truly is. His stifling style of play rendered Johnson helpless. On 8 targets against Revis, Johnson had 3 catches for a mere 25 yards! Now that’s how you compete folks! Take one of the best players at their position and smother them like hash browns from Waffle House! (Note: Johnson had a 29 yard TD in the 4th quarter after Revis went out with an injury.)

Darrelle Revis in coverage against Stevie Johnson. Johnson the first receiver in the stack set. This highlights Revis' ability to read and react.

Darrelle Revis in coverage against Stevie Johnson. Johnson the first receiver in the stack set. This highlights Revis’ ability to read and react.

Revis is playing off man coverage with nickelback Kyle Wilson #20, getting a press on the stack. Wilson will attempt to jam Johnson and stay man to man with his own assignment.

Here I diagram the route that Johnson will be running, an out pattern which looks to be 12 to 15 yards at depth.

Here I diagram the route that Johnson will be running, an out pattern which looks to be 12 to 15 yards at depth.

This is a quick timing route. As soon as the QB’s back foot hits – he needs to deliver the ball pronto! Especially against “Revis Island”..

Revis w/ the pick!

Revis w/ the pick!

INTERCEPTION! Revis’ read and react ability is second to none in the NFL. Timing routes like this are difficult to complete against him even when trying to hide a receiver in the formation.

Darrelle Revis excels in all coverages. He’s smart enough to be a Zone/Cover 2 corner. He’s physical enough to be a press-man corner. He’s fluid in his transitions enough to be an off-man corner. His tackling ability is that of an elite strong safety. People just don’t realize how great this guy is! He has no weaknesses. None! Let’s take a look at him against Johnson in press man coverage.

Revis press on Stevie Johnson

Revis press on Stevie Johnson

Right here Revis is looking to get his hands on Stevie Johnson to mess up the timing of his route. This is a difficult type of coverage as it can be a big gainer for the offense if the receiver  beats the jam.

Revis beaten on the jam by a crafty Stevie Johnson.

Revis beaten on the jam by a crafty Stevie Johnson.

Here Revis is actually beaten on the press technique as he can barely get a hand on Johnson. Johnson is almost indefensible at the line of scrimmage.

Revis torched on the route?!?!

Revis torched on the route?!?!

Revis appears to be clearly beaten on this one. It’ll take a spectacular effort to recover the amount of ground lost by the missed press.

Great recovery!

Great recovery!

Revis recovers by using great technique to undercut the route. He uses his left hand to shield the pass as most defenders would use their right hand and be called for a pass interference. To be honest most guys probably wouldn’t be able to recover in time enough to break up pass like this. Being able to think your way out on that field makes up for physical lapses. The complete package is what Revis is.

Click here to read the Richard Sherman argument

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  • Fredrow

    Uptown Murf knows his stuff. Incredible knowledge of the game.

    • Uptown Murf

      Hey thanks – I totally appreciate that!! Make sure you check here regularly – it will only progress!

  • Patti

    Hey Uptown Murf, thanks for the insight! Your knowledge and attention to details make the novice football person have insightful water cooler talk!

  • ocmmafan

    Very nice, detailed breakdown and I think you are right on the money. Sherman is a talented dude but Revis is clearly on another level. I would say the only corner in the world that compares with Prime Time Neon Deon in shutting down the oppositions best threat is Revis, and that’s about as high of praise as any corner can get.

    Keep up the good work, bro.

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