Know Your Secondary: Who’s the Next Man Up?
–By Eric Ronnebeck
With the best cornerback in the league, and all around entertaining individual, Richard Sherman receiving much of the media attention for the Seahawks these days, it can be easy for us to “misplace” our knowledge of the other cornerbacks on the Seahawk’s roster. Everyone knows how dominant Richard Sherman is and Byron Maxwell is steadily making a name for himself as part of the Legion of Boom. Jeremy Lane played well as the nickelback but will be out at least 8 weeks after re-injuring his groin in the season opener against the Packers.
Gone are Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond. In are three young players that you should get to know:
Taken in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of LSU, Simon was held in high regard as one of the best cover corners in the SEC. He collected 99 tackles, 22 pass break-ups, and 7 interceptions in his 3 years at LSU. At 6’ 3” and 200 lbs, Simon fits the type of cornerback most teams covet: big, physical, and fast. He has good speed getting to the play and in college was known for being an excellent one on one cover corner. However, Simon has never seen any action in the regular season. Sidelined all of 2013 with a foot injury, 2014 was supposed to be the year Simon would assert himself into the Seahawk’s secondary but surgery to remove cartilage in his knee has delayed that plan for about 4 weeks.
Burley went undrafted out of the University of Delaware in 2013 but was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s spent time on the practice squads of the Jaguars, Eagles, Rams, and Colts before the Seahawks acquired him in a trade on August 30th. Burley was the next man up when Jeremy Lane went down with a groin injury in the Thursday night opener and he played very well. He’s shown the ability to cover the inside part of the field in nickel coverage where he’ll be primarily used and he’s earned respect when covering outside on the corners. Burley tackles well without over pursuing and Richard Sherman called him “scrappy”, comparing him to Jeremy Lane. Did I mention that he can play special teams? Marcus Burley could very well be that player you’re not familiar with who then becomes a staple in the Seahawks defense.
Thomas comes to the Seahawks via free agency after failing to make the Carolina Panthers 53 man roster out of preseason. He’s played part of two seasons with the Panthers, starting 10 games in total and accumulating 64 tackles, 9 passes defended, and 1 interception. Thomas had a solid college career at Buffalo, forcing 5 fumbles and grabbing 2 interceptions. He’s a physical corner with plus speed and above average cover skills but has been victimized on running plays and he doesn’t always take the best route to the runner. There are times that the 5’ 10” Thomas has looked outmatched by bigger receivers, notably in Carolina’s NFC Divisional round game against the San Francisco 49ers. As of now, Thomas looks to have been signed as a security blanket for cornerback depth as he is an experienced NFL corner who has spent his entire career covering NFC teams.
The third cornerback isn’t always going to be on the field but it may be the tipping point for a Seahawks team that in week 2 faces a pass heavy team with a good quarterback in the San Diego Chargers and Phillip Rivers, and a bigger challenge in week 3 against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning.