For a good 5 to 6 years Darrelle Revis of the Jets reigned as king of all cornerbacks in the NFL. Even though he is still great and in the top 5 at the position, his age and nagging injuries have decreased his ability to cover Revis Island slightly. Chris Harris of the Broncos also deserves recognition in this argument, but just isn’t at the top yet. So who takes over the number one spot?
Sorry Richard Sherman! But, Patrick Peterson is the clear cut best cornerback in the league. I will go into specifics why this is true, and prove once again that my colleague Mark is living in crazy-ville. Population: him.
Peterson is the star of the “No Fly Zone” on the Arizona Cardinals, and one of the biggest reasons they were able to advance to the NFC Championship last season. The 25-year-old has blazing 4.34 40 speed, great hands and ideal size ( 6’1”, 219 lbs). There is no cornerback in the league with better physical tools.
Opposing offenses have started to give the respect to Peterson they have shown Revis in recent years. They just simply do not target the receiver he is defending. For example, in round 2 of the playoffs last season, Aaron Rodgers only targeted Peterson’s receiver two times the entire game. Two times in 44 passes! That’s pretty high respect coming one of the games best quarterbacks.
Per Bob McManaman of AZCentral Sports, Peterson was asked if he even broke a sweat versus Rodgers. “I probably didn’t,” he admitted. It’s a shame that he wasn’t targeted more this season. We as fans were robbed of watching his special hands and athleticism, which can be seen in this clip below:
It’s hard to argue with statistics when quarterbacks rarely throw Peterson’s way, so let’s look at how some current players feel.
Pete Prisco of CBS asked Julio Jones who the best cornerback was, “Probably Patrick Peterson. For me, he follows me everywhere. Sherman (does) every now and then. He usually plays the right side (left side of the defense). The majority of the time, he’s the right (actually left) corner. Pat, he does everything. Not only play cornerback. He can catch a few balls on offense. He can return kicks and punts.”
Fellow cornerback Antonio Cromartie also echoed a similar sentiment about Sherman while being interviewed on Sirius XM NFL Radio.” “Go follow the No. 1 receiver. Follow him around for a whole entire game and let’s see what you can do. Revis has done that his whole career. I’ve done that. Peterson has done it. Joe Haden has done it. [Sherman] is the only defensive back that hasn’t.”
Now to be fair, it’s not Sherman’s fault he plays in a cover-3 zone defense the majority of the time. However, it’s hard to ignore that playing zone coverage is not as tough as defending a No. 1 wide receiver all over the field. This doesn’t mean he can’t be in the conversation, but it does hurt his case.
Sherman has to use his football intelligence and long arms to overcompensate his lack of top shelf speed. This is fine most of the time, but his speed can lead him to get burned from time to time. You can see this below, where his instincts and arm strength is just not enough to cover Odell Beckham’s speed.
What made Sherman famous was his tremendous play-making ability (well that plus his mouth). When he talks smack about being the best corner in the league, he always has to bring up interception totals. Even though I disagree with this stat being an indicator on how good a corner is, let’s look at his 2015 season. The self-nicknamed “Optimus Prime” was only able to come down with 2 interceptions.
Admittedly, Peterson had a down year in 2014. He was diagnosed with diabetes midseason, which didn’t help his physical conditioning. After a full offseason of learning how to deal with the condition, he returned with a bang in 2015. He played with much more intensity and focus, which helps separates him from Sherman when you add in his out of this world athletic abilities.
This type of talent isn’t just used on defense. Peterson is a gifted punt returner, has 7 career rushes, 10 career receptions and even a completed pass. The man can do it all, but does his best work when facing a star wide receiver on an island. His 2013 & 2015 seasons were great, but you can expect him to raise his game even more in 2016.
Please check out Mark’s article, it would help bring a smile to his and Sherman’s face after this loss.
By Brendan Pignataro | nflspinzone.com | April 24, 2016