Seahawks Insider

Are young corners ready for prime time?

Post by Eric Williams on Nov. 27, 2012 at 10:43 am with 31 Comments »
November 27, 2012 10:47 am

Seattle Seahawks' Jeremy Lane (1) returns an interception against the Oakland Raiders in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey)

The motto for NFL teams when a starter goes down due to injury or suspension is next man up.

And that will certainly be the case if the Seattle Seahawks lose both starting corners to four-game suspensions, and Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman do not get a positive result in their appeal process due to the violation of the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy.

But one thing that Seattle’s personnel department has done a good job of is identifying athletes that fit Pete Carroll’s prototype for the type of athlete he wants to play cornerback in his press coverage scheme –long-armed, lanky guys who can run and are physical.

No one expected Browner and Sherman to emerge as two of the best corners in the league when they arrived at Seattle’s training camp two years ago. Soon, these other raw-but-athletic backups could get a chance to show what they can do. So let’s take a closer look at them.

Dallas Cowboys' Felix Jones returns a kick with Seattle Seahawks' Byron Maxwell defending in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Jeramy Lane – While he’s still a bit raw, at 6-0 and 190 pounds, Lane might have the most upside of the group. A sixth-round selection this season out of Northwestern State, Lane has been a demon on special teams this season. He’s feisty, exhibited by the handful of fights he got into during training camp. And he’s also pretty physical at the line of scrimmage, with good ball skills. Lane, 22, might make a few mistakes early on, but the more reps he gets the better he’ll be.

Byron Maxwell – At 6-1 and 207 pounds, the sixth round draft pick in the 201l draft out of Clemson has the ideal size and speed Seattle is looking for from a press corner. But Maxwell has struggled to stay healthy. Maxwell, 24, actually was ahead of Sherman on the depth chart during the 2011 training camp, but he missed nine games his rookie season because of a severe ankle sprain and pneumonia. Maxwell has dealt with similar injury issues this season. He’s been inactive for five games because of hamstring and shoulder issues. Maxwell is an excellent special teams player, and one of the best athletes on the team. But I’m not sure Pete Carroll can rely on Maxwell to stay out of the training room.

Seattle Seahawks' DeShawn Shead (5) intercepts a pass in a crowd during NFL football practice Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

DeShawn Shead – At 6-1 and 220 pounds, the Portland State product has been on the practice squad the entire season. But like Lane, Shead has been impressive while working with the scout squad against the first offense during practice. Shead, 24, arrived at training camp as a safety, making his presence known with a handful of big hits over the middle of the defense. However, Shead played his first three years at Portland State as a cornerback, and Seattle began to transition him back to his more natural position once the Seahawks established more depth at safety. There’s a strong chance Shead could be added to the active roster for depth at the position.

Walter Thurmond – At 5-11 and 190 pounds, Thurmond has elite speed and the same wing span of 6-3 Richard Sherman, which allows the University of Oregon product to play press coverage on the outside. However, Thurmond also is a sure tackler, plays with good anticipation and quick at breaking on the ball, making him a good nickel defender on slot receivers. Thurmond, 25, has started four games for Seattle, including three last year when Trufant went down with a back injury, so he’s considered a starting-quality corner for Seattle. But like Maxwell, Thurmond’s issue has been staying healthy. Thurmond, a fourth round pick in the 2010 draft, suffered a severe knee injury his final season at Oregon, and twice suffered a broken leg this past year. And although he’s recently been activated off the PUP list, Thurmond’s yet to be active for a game this season.

Marcus Trufant – At 5-11 and 197 pounds, the 10-year veteran has the size to play on the outside, and has done that for most of his career. Trufant, 32, has stayed healthy after finishing last year on the injured reserve due to a back issue. He’s also made the transition from outside to the nickel cornerback position this season. But I see Trufant staying inside at this point to ease the transition of adding two, new players to the defense. Further, Trufant is better at playing off-man coverage and seeing what’s happening in front of him, so Seattle likely would have to change how they scheme things on the outside if they moved him back to the perimeter of the defense.

Leave a comment Comments → 31
  1. Dukeshire says:

    Lane is the guy I’m really excited to see, for ll the reasons Eric mentioned. He battles on kick coverage so hard, I look forward to seeing him bring that tenacity to corner, when the time comes. In fact, I’m a bit surprised we haven’t see him in the slot, yet.

  2. SaigonSun says:

    I’ve always liked Tru…. but, he should (maybe)try coaching instead of playing at this time.I hope he proves me wrong.

  3. Browner & Sherman if they are guilty of using Adderal,then then 4 games it is. If they are innocent “way better”. My qusetion if guilty did they knowingly use? Is the Medical Staff of the Hawks even aware this crap is going on… this aint college, boys You can`t do this at this level. This at a time when all hands on deck are needed…

  4. If the front 7 could actually step up and put together a complete game on the road, the loss of the 2 starting CBs wouldn’t be as big of a deal as it will be.

    But even with Browner and Sherman, this Defense hasn’t been able to protect any type of 4th quarter lead on the road this year. If Cam Newton hadn’t thrown the ball into the feet of the open TE in the endzone, they would be sitting on a 0% success rate.

    It’s ridiculous to say, but for the Seahawks to make the playoffs this year, they are going to have to put more load and pressure on a Rookie QB. Winning games at Buffalo, at Chicago and vs the 49ers were highly questionable even before the suspensions.

    I certainly don’t think they should come out throwing early and often. It would be a mistake for Wilson to have to throw 40+ times a game like Luck. But if the run game is having no success and Wilson is hot (like Detroit and Miami games), they are going to have to be willing to open up the offense earlier and stick with the pass.

  5. Speaking of the front 7, the Eagles just cut Jason Babin. I was never a fan of his because he has no regard for playing the run, but maybe he can be effective rushing the passer on third down.

  6. I think all three of Lane, Maxwell, and Thurmond are good options and are capable of playing solid press-man coverage outside. I also think Shead could be a surprisingly good press corner, but I have concerns with him (same as Browner) due to his size. I think Browner often draws flags not due to more contact than Sherman or any other CB, but due to his contact having a greater impact on receivers.

    My biggest concern is not quality play at CB by the young guys. It’s blown coverages due to lapses in communication between the safeties and corners. I think the familiarity of the starting 4 is a big part of the quality of DB play we’ve had over the past year. I also worry that the change will result in overly conservative defensive playcalling and MORE zone defense and off coverage.

    Side note: I know we can’t play press-man, single high safety EVERY play – but somehting’s gotta change. Every time we give up big drives or big plays we’re in zone or off man/3-deep.

  7. If we do lose Browner and / or Sherman to suspension, I hope they leave Trufant in his current role and let the back-ups replace them. Nice to have one guy play where he is used to playing.

    Another thought, could one of Sherman or Browner appeal their suspension while the other doesn’t? Then we would only have to replace one at a time, all be it over an eight game span.

  8. Dukeshire says:

    This defense has been built from the back-end first, then “front seven”. That said, They ought to be able to withstand the loss of Browner and Sherman, presuming the offense can actually score some points. Rookie QB or not, 23rd in the league in scoring simply isn’t good enough to win games on the road.

    Origun – Of course they knowingly used, and considering how many players league-wide have been suspended this season for Adderall, I’m quite sure everyone inside VMAC is aware it’s going on.

  9. Ewalters7354 says:

    I would love for Jason Babin to come back to the hawks.Clem and Irvin both disappear during games to much for my liking (though I give Irvin a pass being a rook).What happened to Clem after the GB game?But even considering that this FO won’t be interested in him because he’s too old, he’s a veteran player, and not a freakish athlete.Those are the type of players Pete dreads bc they aren’t built for the long run(see Matt Hasselbeck) and aren’t “unique” enough.

  10. Would be really awesome to discover two of these guys can hold their own with no drop off from Sherman/Browner.

  11. Dukeshire says:

    Babin has been a shell of his previous two seasons. Not sure exactly what role he’d fill for this team.

  12. Far more important than how a unit has performed during the course of a long season is how the unit is trending, especially if it’s new and young (as pdway often notes).

    What’s the value of citing an offense’s full season scoring average without noting the offense started the year with a Rookie QB who had limited training camp reps AND with pass catching targets (Rice, Tate, Baldwin, Miller) that missed SIGNIFICANT training camp time with injuries?

    The team has scored an average of 26 points per game and allowed an average of 20 points per game over the past 4. The offense has averaged 357 yards per game and the defense has allowed 331 yards per game over the past 4. All of these numbers are significantly higher than the averages over the first 7 games.

    The average rank of the defenses the Seahawks have faced is 16 and the average rank of the offenses the Seahawks have faced is 19.

    The offense averaged roughly the same yards (331) in the 2 home games as the 2 road games. The Defense has allowed roughly 190 yards MORE on the road than at home in the last 4 games (425 vs 235).

    Clearly the Seahawks Offense is dramatically trending upwards and the Seahawks Defense is dramatically trending downwards. The Offensive improvement is EXACTLY as expected given the circumstances described above. The Seahawks Defense is managing to perform poorly despite playing weak offenses.

  13. If Babin could simply generate some third down/4th quarter pass rush, it would be a huge improvement over the current situation and alleviate some of the defensive issues in the 4th quarter or on third down.

  14. I should clarify that last line in terms of the Seahawks Defense facing weaker Offenses.

    What I should have said is that the variance between the road and home Defensive performance is huge and that they have no problems shutting down average to bad offenses at home but have difficulty even containing average or good offenses on the road, which is why they have gone 2-2 and not 4-0. It has nothing to do with the offense. The first 7 games of the year were a different story.

  15. GeorgiaHawk says:

    I’m actually looking forward to seeing what our young corners can do. Good chance for them to get some experience too.
    I think this Bears game is winnable. They have some injuries to deal with and our young guys won’t have South Beach as a distraction this week. Lol.

  16. Dukeshire says:

    Well, if trending is as important as purported, then this team is in even more trouble than suggested. They’ve scored less points than the game before in each of the past three games. Honestly though, that type of thinking has almost no relevance in the next game, unless they were playing the same team.

  17. Technically speaking, I think you meant to say – “They’ve scored less points than the game before in each of the past TWO games.”

    The point is, most observers would tend to agree that the Offense has gotten better lately and the Defense can’t stop anyone on the road, especially when the game is on the line.

  18. @pabuwal – – I agree with you that it has been the front 7, much more than the DB’s that have come up short on the road. And I’d take a flyer on Babin.

    Re Duke’s note, in what sense has he been a shell of his former self the past two years? He had 18 sacks last year, and he has 5.5 this year. I’d take that production if the cost isn’t too steep. We could use another edge rusher.

  19. “Honestly though, that type of thinking has almost no relevance in the next game, unless they were playing the same team.”

    So you don’t believe in teams coming together and getting hot at various points in the season (e.g. last year’s NY Giants)? I think that happens all the time, and it’s not just about the opponents, it’s about offensive and defensive units clicking at the right times (and of course, getting healthy, where that’s an issue).

  20. They say Babin was limited by a calf issue this year. I wouldn’t want him as a big money starter, but he might be valuable in limited situations.

    I still think this team is a consistent pass rush (like the 49ers have) away from being elite or near-elite. But a consistent pass rush might be even harder to find than a franchise QB.

  21. “I still think this team is a consistent pass rush (like the 49ers have) away from being elite or near-elite. But a consistent pass rush might be even harder to find than a franchise QB.”

    Agreed. We tried in this year’s draft – and Irvin has shown some ability, but hasn’t been a difference-maker all that often. And along w/the rest of our pass rush, has been missing in the 4th quarters we all know about.

  22. Dukeshire says:

    pdway – You misread what I wrote. His previous two years have been very productive. This year he is a “shell” of that.

    If we’re taking the defense’s production then why is the offense exempt from that? I simply don’t see how anyone can single out the defense when the offense has as played equally as poorly. Had the offense, against Miami, not had 3 consecutive plays for negative yards to end their final possession, they likely would not have again put the defense in a position to fail.

  23. GeorgiaHawk says:

    The Eagles as a whole are a shell of what they were suppose to be. Perhaps Babin just can’t stand the circus anymore.

    I would take a chance on him for cheap.

  24. Miami’s final drive started on it’s own 10 yard line with just 90 seconds and 1 timeout left.

    Miami’s poor position was because the offense had some success moving the ball on the drive you cited before the Coaches decided to go conservative.

    Field position was irrelevant to the Dolphins and the Lions. Those teams mounted more 80+ yard TD drives in those games than they did the entire season.

  25. “If we’re taking the defense’s production then why is the offense exempt from that? I simply don’t see how anyone can single out the defense when the offense has as played equally as poorly.”

    That’s a reasonable point. Speaking for myself, I guess it’s b/c I’ve been operating under the assumption that the defense was ahead of the offense in terms of development, and that it needed to be the unit to carry this team to an extent. We sent 3 DB’s to the pro bowl last year, and it felt like, early on this year at least, that we might would be able to add Mebane and maybe KJ to that list. For all of the issues, it’s still the 5th ranked unit in the league as of this week.

    It may be time to re-think that assumption, but I still think it is (or can be) the stronger of the two team units for the time being.

  26. Dukeshire says:

    With 2 minutes left, Seattle has the ball at Miami’s 40 and proceeds to go backward 9 yards in three plays and punts, and this is this acceptable because the defense gave up the game winning FG? It should never have come to that. Yes, it would have been awesome if the defense had not given up a FG and they had an opportunity to win in OT. But the offense had a perfect opportunity to take the lead late and failed. No spinning can eliminate this fact.

  27. bbnate420 says:

    Can we agree that both the offense and defense failed against Miami?

  28. DanielleMND says:

    bbnate420, sure, the offense could have scored more, but 21 points between offense and special teams? Those units did their jobs. It was the D that gave up 17 points in less than a quarter, and two scoring drives were 80 or more yards.

  29. Interesting read on Shead, Eric. I’ve been wondering about where he fits in the bigger picture of things. I figured he’d impressed Carroll and probably Bradley and Richard in some manner to have stuck around this long despite the fact that the team is fairly thick with DB’s.

    So they want him at CB. 6’1 and 220 lbs. is a hell of a load at CB. He looks more like something closer to Browner than to Sherman. He made quite a few plays in college. Report I read on him says he has limited COD skills, and he actually did look a little sloppy while running numerous cone drills. He’s got an NBA level vertical leap though, and good enough straight-line speed.

  30. DanielleMND says:

    Not to mention, three of Miami’s four scoring drives were 80 or more yards, and one was 94 yards. That’s just bad defense.

  31. mojjonation says:

    Miami got nearly half of their yards and 17 points in not even a full quarter of play. There is no way one facet of the team is to blame for this.

    As previously mentioned, Seattle was at Miami’s 40 with 2 minutes left and proceeded to go backwards 9 yards taking them out of field goal range. And honestly, RW should have thrown the ball away he tossed to Lynch. Everyone watching from every angle saw the 6 guys boxing him and Lynch in. RW was already outside the tackle box and could have thrown it into the 10th row.

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