Richard Sherman says he is still the best cornerback in the NFL
Stephon Gilmore is having one of the best seasons we have seen from a cornerback in the modern NFL, and you could say it is the type of year Richard Sherman had at the height of his career. But as far as Sherman is concerned, quarterbacks should still fear him even more than they fear the New England Patriots’ top corner.
Sherman, who missed the San Francisco 49ers’ surprising loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday with a hamstring injury, has been having a resurgent season of sorts. Now two years removed from a torn Achilles, the 31-year-old is one of the main reasons the Niners are allowing just 154.4 passing yards per game, which is by far the best mark in the NFL. In a recent interview with Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report, Sherman said he is as good now as he ever was.
“I feel like I’ve gotten respect in spurts,” he said. “Now, they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s a veteran.’ No. I’m still the best to play in this game.”
Like most dominant cornerbacks (including Gilmore), Sherman has benefited from a tremendous pass rush in San Francisco led by Arik Armstead and rookie Nick Bosa. However, Sherman has had some vintage performances this season where opposing quarterbacks essentially ignore his side of the field. That happened in the Niners’ 37-8 pounding of the Green Bay Packers last month, and Sherman confidently told Dunne, “It’s been like that for years.”
Sherman, who has three interceptions and 11 passes defensed on the season, said he has never claimed to be the most athletic player at his position. He simply feels he knows most of the answers to the test at this point, and he credits future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson for teaching him to play “above the shoulders.”
“I don’t care if you’re the most outstanding athlete in the world; you’re simply a pawn,” Sherman said of opposing receivers. “You’re a pawn in the grand scheme. You don’t get to call your own shot. If you individually can say, ‘On this play, I’m doing this and I can do whatever the f— I want,’ then it would be much harder to stop people. But when all I have to do is understand the person calling the plays and understand the situation I’m in, then you’re just the move getting made.”
Even if he knows deep down that he’s no longer the best corner in the NFL, Sherman refuses to break from the mindset that no one gives him enough respect. That’s the main reason he ended up in a somewhat embarrassing feud with Baker Mayfield earlier this season, and the 49ers are smart to embrace it. Assuming he is healthy come playoff time, we can expect Sherman to be at the top of his game just like he was at the height of the “Legion of Boom” era.