Now, now, I know what you probably screamed after you read my title, "We certainly don't need a player like Richard Sherman on the Steelers, always acting loud and boisterous, and fighting with the other team!"
Joey Porter says hi, by the way.
When I say the Steelers could use a player like Richard Sherman, I'm not talking about his mouth. I'm talking about his awesome coverage skills.
I certainly can't claim to be an expert on what makes a great shutdown cornerback, or who really is the best the current NFL has to offer, but I do know Sherman is among the best right now, as is Darrelle Revis (when healthy).
Before the likes of Sherman and Revis, there was Champ Bailey, who, in his prime, was considered one of the best shut-down corners in the business. And of course, when you talk about some of the best to have ever played, recent legends such as Rod Woodson and Deion Sanders are certainly near the top of most discussions.
I'm not going to list anymore great corners, because that could take hours and possibly spark unnecessary debates about who was the best (imagine that on a sports blog).
The point I'm trying to make is that every era seems to have at least one guy who regularly shuts down the receiver he's covering and makes most quarterbacks who try to throw in his area regret it more often than not.
Again, I don't know much about the x's and o's of football, but I do know these so-called shut-down guys can't be fictional since I often hear color analysts remark about how bored they must be after getting no action on their side of the field during a game.
Therefore, it must not be impossible to play the position well, even though many (including corners and fans alike) are worried that passing has become all but impossible to defend.
Old school football purists have bemoaned the fact that the NFL has been trying to turn its league into flag football for years and cite the many rules implemented to help passing offenses gain an unfair advantage; rules such as illegal contact after five yards (or the Mel Blount rule), which were enacted with the hopes of opening up the passing game and increasing scoring.
Add to that the fact that college football has caught up to the pros in recent years, complete with wide-open offenses and an increasing number of quarterbacks who are able to read defenses and make all the necessary throws at the pro-level--including the almost impossible to defend when thrown properly back-shoulder pass--and maybe those old school purists are correct.
But as guys like Sherman have proven, it's still not impossible to play corner at an elite level, so maybe the position simply has to catch up to how the passing game has evolved over the years.
You always hear these guys (corners) talk about playing their "technique." What is a corner's technique? I do know it involves proper positioning and knowing when to turn around and look for the ball in the air--how often do you see the great ones grab a jersey or get called for face-guarding?
The position obviously also requires great speed, instincts, balls-skills, and of course, physicality.
As the passing game continues to evolve, the position of cornerback may also have to evolve into one where sound technique is a must, and possibly emphasized above all other aspects of the job.
An elite cornerback is certainly coveted by every team--the best coming out of college rarely last past the top 10 of the NFL Draft--but maybe in the future, thanks to coaching and bright football minds, an elite cornerback will become something that's absolutely mandatory for every team to have. And much like the position of quarterback, perhaps more corners will arrive from the collegiate ranks already polished and equipped with superior coverage skills and sound technique.
You might not be able to tackle in flag football, but you can still cover really well.
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