49ers' Richard Sherman criticizes NFL's ‘zone cornerback' narrative


Richard Sherman has been one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks for most of his career. A first-team All-Pro for three consecutive seasons from 2012-14, Sherman still was among the NFL’s top cornerbacks in 2019 with the 49ers, posting an 88.9 Pro Football Focus grade.

But Sherman also has his detractors, as he wasn’t included in ESPN’s top 10 cornerbacks list going into the 2020 season. Some, like former NFL All-Pro Darrelle Revis, believe Sherman likes to “hide” in zone coverage, and isn’t a reliable cornerback in man coverage.

The 32-year-old Sherman joined Pro Football Focus, and explained why the concept of a “zone corner” or a “man corner” is a fallacy in the NFL.

[RELATED: Why Sherman believes 49ers are built to avoid SB hangover]

“First off, the zone/man thing is ridiculous,” Sherman said on Instagram live with Pro Football Focus. “People for some reason think that certain players play strictly man, 100 percent man, and certain players play 100 percent zone, when no one plays more than 55, 60 percent man. That’s probably at the top, top end. That’s probably New England and Gillie (Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore) and those guys playing man all the time. New York back in the day probably played about 60 percent, but the rest of the time they’re playing zone. Because that’s how you have to play in this league, or else you’re predictable.

“People saying we play zone all the time, when I’d say we’re probably 45, closer to 50 percent man, especially on third down, we’re probably 70 to 80 percent.”

“But that’s one of those things they try to put out there to try and diminish what you’ve accomplished. Because that’s all you have, it’s like ‘hey, we gotta find some way to suppress what he’s done, because he can’t just be this good.’ "

PFF released some stats back in May that proved how dominant Sherman has been in coverage over his NFL career, even compared to the dominant Revis.

Whether Sherman is playing zone or man defense, he’s clearly one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. Like he has throughout his football career, Sherman is using the haters as fuel in preparation for his 10th NFL season.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

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