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.
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.
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.