Richard Sherman Is All Systems Go Heading into Week 16

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterDecember 21, 2012

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 16: Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up before playing an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Rogers Centre on December 16, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

By the sounds of it, cornerback Richard Sherman will be in the starting lineup on Sunday Night Football against the San Francisco 49ers.

No questions about the appeal please the result will be announced soon enough. And I will be out there with my teammates Sunday!

— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) December 22, 2012

Obviously by the sounds of his last tweet, from less than an hour ago, the hearing for his impending four-game suspension went well. Head coach Pete Carroll echoed the same sentiment Friday after practice. "I'm anticipating we'll have him," Carroll said (h/t Lindsay Jones, USA Today). "We know nothing else at this point."

He's right, we don't know anything else at this point. The only thing we do know is that he will be in the starting lineup with rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane opposite of him. It will be interesting to see where Sherm lines up to begin the game. Last week he started his first game of the season at right cornerback and Lane was at left cornerback.

In the 23 games prior to Week 15, he had started every game at left corner. Was moving him to the opposite side an effort to slow down Stevie Johnson right away or did it allow the rookie out of Northwestern State to feel more comfortable in his natural position?

Lane played a little bit in the slot against both Arizona and Buffalo, but most of his reps have came at the left corner spot. To answer the question, I think it was a little bit of both. Johnson is a major threat at the wide receiver position and he showed it. But more importantly, Sherman should be versatile enough to line up at both corner spots.

He has taken over 1,652 snaps as a pro and has established himself as one of the top three cover corners in the NFL. Lane will only benefit from being comfortable on the field considering this week's game against the 49ers is Seattle's biggest of the season.

The pressure to perform wouldn't be so high, except for the fact that the 'Hawks are down to their fourth and fifth corners outside of Sherm. Brandon Browner is serving the third game of his four-game suspension, Marcus Trufant may be out with a bum hamstring and Walter Thurmond may also be a no go with a bum hammy.

Even though the prognosis doesn't look good for Trufant and Thurmond, there is a glimmer of hope:

CB Walter Thurmond and CB Marcus Trufant were able to practice Friday. They will be game-time decisions according to Pete Carroll.

— Curtis Crabtree (@Curtis_Crabtree) December 21, 2012

According to the analysts at Pro Football Focus, the Seattle Seahawks have the third-highest pass coverage grade in the NFL. Only the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears have done a better job in coverage this season. Out of the seven cornerbacks that have taken at least one snap for Seattle, six of them have a positive coverage grade.

The lone corner who doesn't have a positive coverage grade is the 10-year vet, Trufant. He has surrendered 27 completions on 35 attempts for 251 yards and one touchdown. His biggest downfall has been his inability to stop players after they catch the ball.

He has allowed 111 yards after the catch on those 25 completions. His 4.44-yard average after the catch is the highest rate of any corner on the team. In fairness to Tru, it is his first year in the slot and he has been battling a couple of different nagging injuries throughout the course of the year.

Here is a full grading chart from PFF for your viewing pleasure:

As you can see, Lane, Thurmond and Byron Maxwell have all done a great job of picking up the slack over the last two weeks. Another player who intrigues me is Ron Parker—Parker is a second-year undrafted free agent out of Newberry College in South Carolina.

He was signed off of the Carolina Panthers practice squad when Browner initially started his suspension two weeks ago. Parker has good size at six feet tall and he is a stout 206 pounds. His play resembles that of fellow corner, Maxwell.

With all the recent acquisitions and improved levels of play, the Seahawks appear to be well equipped to make a run deep into the playoffs with or without No. 25.