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    • michael89156

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      The copycat nature of the NFL has the league looking at Seattle’s take on the cornerback position. Len Pasquarelli    NFPJanuary 26, 2014, 09:56 AM EST..sherman2_zpsa24ddf58.jpgSherman stands 6-3 and was found in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Among the many old and hackneyed saws connected to the NFL are these two: There is nothing new under the sun in the league. And second, as noted hundreds of times already on NFP, the NFL is the consummate copycat league. Combine the two and what do you get? Well, you get the Seattle Seahawks’ desire for big cornerbacks and the rest of the league’s sudden love affair to emulate that with coverage defenders who can not only knock down a pass but also knock a wide receiver off his route before he even has a chance to get to the ball. Nothing succeeds quite like success in the NFL, and with the Seahawks having carved out the best record in the NFC and advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII next Sunday with safety- or even linebacker-sized defensive backs, they have unwittingly established the template for other franchises. And as evidence of that, despite the seemingly recent phenomenon of trying to unearth bullish cornerbacks, understand that Seattle coach Pete Carroll first became enamored of the idea more than 30 years ago. Yeah, thirty-something years ago. As a nondescript defensive assistant at North Carolina State, Carroll was watching a training camp practice matching the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers in the early 1980s, a joint session rare in those days. This was in an era in which San Francisco coach Bill Walsh, even in the earliest days of the West Coast offense, favored big receivers such as Dwight Clark. The Raiders, not necessarily because of the 49ers, but because owner Al Davis coveted size and speed, countered with cornerbacks Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes. Watching the practice, and taking note of the difficulty the San Francisco receivers had in getting releases and moving into their routes, the synapses fired in Carroll’s fertile cranium. While he hasn’t always succeeded in finding bigger cornerbacks in his various incarnations as a head coach at the college and the professional levels, Carroll recalled that innocuous practice at every stop. He tied the adage that “bigger is better” to a position where it historically hadn’t always been applied. For whatever reason – and despite the successes of teams like Pittsburgh, which had Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount, a horse of a man at nearly 6-feet-4 – the notion of big cornerbacks was hardly a widespread one. But Carroll, who concedes he is hardly a visionary, saw the possibilities. “I just thought that adding another kind of physical (obstacle) that receivers would have to deal with was a way to go,” he said. “It was just obvious watching that (1980s) practice.” Recalled the verbose Hayes, who has been considered in the past for Hall of Fame induction, and probably should keep company with his old buddy Haynes in the Canton shrine: “I remember that (wide receivers) didn’t like playing us. We were good. We were physical. And, man, we were big. I mean, you didn’t see guys who were 6 feet, 6-1, whatever out there at corner that much, you know?” Thirty years later, the bigger cornerbacks aren’t as prevalent as some coaches likely wish they were – “Hey, try finding a 6(-foot) something guy that can run that well. It’s just not that easy,” one AFC defensive coordinator said this week – but perhaps the success of the Seahawks is changing the paradigm a bit.  If you want evidence of that, look no further than the Senior Bowl practices from last week. Even reviewing the sessions on television instead of in-person, and looking over the video of the practices, it’s obvious that size is definitely “in” at the cornerback slot. Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said the collection of bigger cornerbacks wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, and that’s true. But Savage has an NFL pedigree, keeps close tabs on what’s happening in a league where he was once a standout talent scout and general manager, and it’s not totally happenstance that the game included five cornerbacks of impressive size. Perhaps were the Senior Bowl able to recruit underclass players (at which point it would no longer be the Senior Bowl, right?), the size component at cornerback would not have been so profound. Still, of the consensus top six cornerbacks cited by most scouts to whom NFP regularly speaks, three are 6 feet or taller. Oklahoma State standout Justin Gilbert, generally thought to be either the No. 1 or 2 prospect at the position, told NFP: “It’s kind of the old ‘tit for tat.’ The receivers have gotten bigger, so the (cornerbacks) had to as well.” The Senior Bowl practices featured corners such as Utah’s Keith McGill (6-3, 215), Pierre Desir of Lindenwood (6-1 1/8, 195), Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6-2 3/8, 214), Walt Aiken of Liberty (6-0 5/8, 205) and Dontae Johnson of North Carolina State (6-2, 199). Maybe given the origination of Carroll’s penchant for size at the position, it was fitting a North Carolina State player would be in the group. “I’d like to think that size is just one of the reasons I’m here,” Nebraska’s Jean-Baptiste told NFP from Mobile last week. “But I do think that, with guys like (Seattle’s Richard) Sherman, the thinking has changed some. Maybe a few years ago, I would have just been pegged as a safety (and some scouts still think that might be where he best projects), and wouldn’t have even had the chance to line up (at cornerback). But that’s not how it is now. Teams are looking at you differently if you’re a corner with size. Receivers don’t necessarily like it, but that’s the way it is.” It’s certainly the way it is for Carroll and the Seahawks, whose scouting department has been well schooled in the preferences of its staff. There are five cornerbacks on Seattle’s active roster heading into next Sunday’s title game. And all but Walter Thurmond are at least 6 feet tall; all weigh at least 190 pounds. The emphasis on size extends even to the cover guys on the team’s various reserve lists. Rookie Tharold Simon, for instance, is 6-3 and weighs about 205. A fifth-round draft pick from LSU, Simon is on the physically unable to perform list, but the Seahawks quietly acknowledge they feel the youngster will be a player at some point. And it doesn’t hurt that he fits the “bigger is better” template. “I’ve got some good size myself,” said Denver cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the biggest of the Broncos’ cover guys. “But their people are huge.” Of course, the models for the template were to have been the tandem of Sherman and Brandon Browner until the latter was suspended indefinitely for a violation of the NFL’s illegal substance policy. Browner was a monster at 6-4, a thumper who reveled in mixing it up, whose size and strong hands could redirect a receiver, and who could run. When he was suspended, though, the Seahawks didn’t have to look very far for a corner to line up opposite Sherman. Not that the replacements were as good as Browner, whose future is uncertain, given his long suspension and pending status as a free agent. But the style of play didn’t have to change. “You miss (Browner), sure. But schematically, It’s not like we had to go back to the drawing board or anything,” Sherman said. That said, scouts are going back to their draft boards and probably re-thinking some old philosophies about the cornerback position. It took 30 years, but Carroll’s idea seems to have gained considerable traction in the league.

    • Anonymous

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      Oooh Myron….where art thou?

    • Anonymous

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      I think it ebbs and flows with the times.Runningbacks, corners, qb's, and even in the trenches everyone's size/shape changes over the years with the types of offenses that are being ran in any era. The t2 might not be as much of a staple as it once was, but as with any system, it will come back into style eventually.In the hawk's case, I think they run a solid system, but they also are lucky/smart to have a system that is congruent with the offenses in today's nfl. E.g. ..they match up well.The trick for any coach or gm, is to be ahead of the curve, not copy. These guys have done that.

    • Anonymous

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      Yeah  , let’s cut Revis and resign Myron Lewis….what were we thinking ??

    • Anonymous

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      A taller CB is better all other things held constant, but it’s very hard to find a tall CB with a lot of short range burst and lateral agility. It’s part of the reason that I think Banks will never be a consistent lock down corner. He doesn’t have great times in short range drills, and doesn’t have the vertical. strength, or range of someone like Sherman to make up for it. His best bet is to be a playmaker like he was in college and make a bunch of interceptions, but just try to limit as many big plays as possible.

    • Anonymous

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      Cover 2 coming back to Tampa is he best thing that could have happened to Banks. He should thrive in this scheme.

    • Anonymous

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      It’s not a new trend for teams to target the biggest WRs and CBs. The problem is that it’s rare to find these giants that still have the speed and agility of someone much smaller….which is why CBs will continue to average 5’10” and WRs will continue to average 6ft. A great WR or CB happens to be huge is a great weapon....but being huge does not make a WR or CB great. Some folks can't seem to figure this out....which is why Kelvin Benjamin will be drafted before Jarvis Landry.

    • Anonymous

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      It's not a new trend for teams to target the biggest WRs and CBs. The problem is that it's rare to find these giants that still have the speed and agility of someone much smaller....which is why CBs will continue to average 5'10" and WRs will continue to average 6ft. A great WR or CB happens to be huge is a great weapon....but being huge does not make a WR or CB great. Some folks can't seem to figure this out....which is why Kelvin Benjamin will be drafted before Jarvis Landry.

      Except for when Benjamin’s head isn’t in his a$$, he’s pretty much unguardable.

    • Anonymous

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      Guys like Boykin and Grimes still look good

    • Anonymous

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      A taller CB is better all other things held constant, but it's very hard to find a tall CB with a lot of short range burst and lateral agility. It's part of the reason that I think Banks will never be a consistent lock down corner. He doesn't have great times in short range drills, and doesn't have the vertical. strength, or range of someone like Sherman to make up for it. His best bet is to be a playmaker like he was in college and make a bunch of interceptions, but just try to limit as many big plays as possible.

      Actually they were pretty similar on the measurable stuff. Banks short shuttle was actually slightly better than Sherman, and while Sherman's vert (38") was better than Banks (34.5"), Banks' arms are 2" longer than Sherman's. And here's the NFL.com scouting report on Sherman:STRENGTHS Sherman possesses rare height for a corner with enough bulk and speed. Effective when lined up at the line in press man coverage. Uses length well and established sound initial positioning. Flashes the ability to turn and run. Flashes the ability to high-point the football. Willing to help out in run support.WEAKNESSES Can be baited out of position when in zone and a tick late to diagnose underneath routes. Tall, high-cut prospect who displays some hip-stiffness. Not explosive when transitioning or when changing direction. Lacks great recovery skills when beaten off the line. Can struggle tacking in the open field at times.I think the biggest differences (in terms of raw attributes) are that Sherman plays with crazy intensity/confidence, and that Sherman's stronger.

    • Anonymous

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      Most important trait I wanna see in a CB is the ability to cover his man effectively while looking back and playing the ball. You’d think that would be pretty basic….but it’s actually quite rare.

    • Anonymous

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      The rule changes also made it harder to be a big CB.  Blount just beat the heck out of guys.  It’s been a long time, but what always stood out to me about Michael Haynes is that despite being big, he was exceptionally quick and fast; his game was different than Blount’s.

    • Anonymous

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      I’m 5’7 and played allot of CB in my day, including man CB. The key is speed and vertical. Sure those 6’4″ WR could out jump me, but if I could keep pace I was in position to dislodge the ball. You can go up and get it…but let’s see you come down with it……

    • Anonymous

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      I'm 5'7 and played allot of CB in my day, including man CB. The key is speed and vertical. Sure those 6'4" WR could out jump me, but if I could keep pace I was in position to dislodge the ball. You can go up and get it...but let's see you come down with it......

      Sherman is a prime example of why speed doesn't matter. He is not exactly Usain Bolt, and he is one of the top CB's in the NFL. Maybe even the best.  [sorry revis]

    • Anonymous

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      I'm 5'7 and played allot of CB in my day, including man CB. The key is speed and vertical. Sure those 6'4" WR could out jump me, but if I could keep pace I was in position to dislodge the ball. You can go up and get it...but let's see you come down with it......

      Sherman is a prime example of why speed doesn't matter. He is not exactly Usain Bolt, and he is one of the top CB's in the NFL. Maybe even the best.  [sorry revis]

      Speed does matter and it's why Sherman is so special  The fact that he can do what he does at his speed with stiffish hips makes him the exception and not the rule IMO.

    • Anonymous

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      I'm 5'7 and played allot of CB in my day, including man CB. The key is speed and vertical. Sure those 6'4" WR could out jump me, but if I could keep pace I was in position to dislodge the ball. You can go up and get it...but let's see you come down with it......

      Sherman is a prime example of why speed doesn't matter. He is not exactly Usain Bolt, and he is one of the top CB's in the NFL. Maybe even the best.  [sorry revis]

      Speed does matter and it's why Sherman is so special  The fact that he can do what he does at his speed with stiffish hips makes him the exception and not the rule IMO.

      An average CB can cover up a lot of faults with blazing speed.  Sherman has "it" between the ears, and great instincts.

    • Anonymous

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      Well, you probably won’t see a CB that is north of 6′ be drafted in the first 2/maybe 3 rounds. You could see as many as 10 CBs get drafted that aren’t about 6′. Hell, IMO the best CB in this upcoming draft class is in the 5’10 range and only weighs around 175, but he is gonna be an excellent CB, I predict.

    • Anonymous

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      My point was for a short corner, you need speed.

    • Anonymous

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      If you’re the Vikings and Packers you’ve got Megatron, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall twice every season. Getting bigger, more physical guys on the outside might be a necessity

    • Anonymous

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      Best CB in this draft is 5’11” 200lbs…..Gilbert.

    • Anonymous

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      I'm 5'7 and played allot of CB in my day, including man CB. The key is speed and vertical. Sure those 6'4" WR could out jump me, but if I could keep pace I was in position to dislodge the ball. You can go up and get it...but let's see you come down with it......

      Sherman is a prime example of why speed doesn't matter. He is not exactly Usain Bolt, and he is one of the top CB's in the NFL. Maybe even the best.  [sorry revis]

      Speed does matter and it's why Sherman is so special  The fact that he can do what he does at his speed with stiffish hips makes him the exception and not the rule IMO.

      +1 a 6' 3' 200lb guy (roughly) who runs a 4.5 (ish) in the 40, and runs in the 10s in the 100 meter and (I think) 10s even in the 110 hurdles IS FAST.  We're talking about only a .1 to .2 slower than the fastest guys in the NFL in the 40 and he is 6' 3" and LONG and SMART.  HIs FUNCTIONAL speed is very high, as you note. He plays faster than most

    • Anonymous

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      Sherman is a prime example of why speed doesn't matter. He is not exactly Usain Bolt, and he is one of the top CB's in the NFL. Maybe even the best.  [sorry revis]

      Best this year. Not best in the league or at least not yet.

    • Anonymous

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      Sherm is good in the system they’re running though.Not to take anything away from him, but he's running a system that is built well around him as well as fit into that system particularly well.Meanwhile, if we are to compare, revis is quite versatile. In zone he's great, and in man coverage, a downright terror. Other elite guys like scrabble changed and went to pot, so it isn't always boobshine and buttervag when changing schemes or systems.Sherm can't say as much, but his stats will say otherwise for many many more years to come.

    • Anonymous

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      Sherm is good in the system they're running though.Not to take anything away from him, but he's running a system that is built well around him as well as fit into that system particularly well.Meanwhile, if we are to compare, revis is quite versatile. In zone he's great, and in man coverage, a downright terror. Other elite guys like scrabble changed and went to pot, so it isn't always boobshine and buttervag when changing schemes or systems.Sherm can't say as much, but his stats will say otherwise for many many more years to come.

      Totally agree.

    • Anonymous

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      Sherman is a prime example of why speed doesn't matter. He is not exactly Usain Bolt, and he is one of the top CB's in the NFL. Maybe even the best.  [sorry revis]

      Best this year. Not best in the league or at least not yet.

      Fair point.  Its a tough call between Sherman, Revis, and Peterson IMO.

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