By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — If you’re of the opinion that Richard Sherman should shut his trap and let his play do his talking for him, well, you’re out of luck.
That’s not Richard Sherman. The chatter, that ability to get in an opponent’s head, it’s all part of the package that has helped the Seahawks cornerback quickly become one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL.
But if you think Sherman’s game is all about talking trash, as some casual observers might after a postgame exchange with Tom Brady and subsequent locker-room rant made national headlines, then you haven’t been paying attention.
Yeah, Sherman is going to chirp at receivers. And yes he’ll challenge quarterbacks to throw his direction, or do a Dikembe Mutomboesqe finger wag after breaking up a pass. But if you’re only listening to the noise and not watching Sherman’s play, you’re missing the point.
“It’s just part of the game,” said Sherman, a fifth-round pick who is looking more and more like one of the biggest steals of the 2011 draft. “It’s part of the game a lot of weeks, this week it just got a little more focus, a little more attention than usual.”
Indeed this is nothing new for Sherman. When you call out one of the game’s marquee players like Brady on a very public forum like Twitter, it makes headlines, but Sherman is also the player who last year said Bengals rookie A.J. Green was, “Just a lot of noise talking and bad routes.”
So yes, Sherman will talk, get used to it. But he’s also backing it up, now more than ever. When Sherman made that statement about Green, he was still finding his way in the NFL, making his first start because of injuries to Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond. But even though injuries forced Sherman into action, it quickly became clear that he was not going to give that starting job back anytime soon. In only 10 starts, Sherman, who started his college career at Stanford as a receiver before moving to defense, had four interceptions, and by the end of the year was playing every bit as well as cornerback Brandon Browner, who made the Pro Bowl in his first NFL season.
“As far as the most improved player, he’s definitely that guy,” said safety Earl Thomas. “He’s miles from where he started from. He’s confident. The more games he plays, the more plays he makes, it builds his confidence up.”
Last season, the Seahawks sent three of their four starting defensive backs to the Pro Bowl, but the scariest things for opposing offenses this year isn’t that they have to face three Pro Bowlers, it’s that a strong argument can be made that Seattle’s best defensive back this season isn’t one of those three.
That’s how good Sherman has been through four games. With three interceptions and 13 passes defensed, Sherman is among the league leaders in both categories, but his ability to impact a game goes beyond that. That swagger, that ability to get in an opponent’s head, that isn’t just for fun — though believe me, Sherman is having fun out there — it can have an effect on opposing offenses.
“We’re different in our way,” said the much quieter Browner. “He’s the talker, he frustrates guys in that way. … You can see it, week in and week out. I tell him, ‘that’s when you’re at your best, when you’re talking noise out there. That’s when you’re on top of your game.’”
It works for Sherman, and as an added bonus to fans and the reporters who cover him, it’s also pretty entertaining. So while Sherman may try to avoid having things carry over onto Twitter after a game, he isn’t too worried about the attention that has come his way this week.
“I don’t regret anything about that situation,” he said. “It is what it is.”
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll likes that some of his players, Sherman included, play with chips on their shoulders. That will happen when you have one of the league’s best defenses that happens to consist of a lot of players who weren’t drafted in the first round, or in the case of players like Browner and defensive end Chris Clemons, who weren’t drafted at all. But while Carroll was fine with the description of cocky for Sherman, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley likes another word better.
“He’s just confident,” Bradley said, noting that he was asked prior to the Patriots game if Sherman was cocky. “He’s not cocky. Cocky people don’t want to learn, and Richard wants to learn.”
Then with a laugh, Bradley conceded. “Then all this came up. But he really isn’t, he’s just so passionate.”
Passionate, confident, cocky, call it what you will. In the end, what matters most is that Sherman, like the rest of the Seahawks defense, is getting the job done. And as long as that continues, the Seahawks don’t mind if Sherman keeps talking.
“He’s a smart, young player who really knows the game inside and out, and that put with his athletic ability and his will to compete, it’s all coming together for him,” said cornerback Marcus Trufant. “Every day he’s getting better. It’s kind of scary to think about what he can do.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.