The Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints Monday Night Football matchup pins two of the NFL's best teams in a fight for home-field advantage in the NFC. It also pins one of the league's best receiving threats, Jimmy Graham, against shutdown corner Richard Sherman. And Sherman won't disappoint.
Graham typically poses a huge disadvantage for defenses. He's too fast for linebackers and safeties, and he's too big for corners.
Enter 6'3" Richard Sherman, who doesn't lack any confidence according to Liz Mathews of 710 ESPN:
Just asked @RSherman_25 if I should start Jimmy Graham on Mon. His reply: "You do that and lemme know how that works out." :-)— Liz Mathews 710 ESPN (@Liz_Mathews) November 29, 2013
Sherman is one of the league's biggest corners, and he will need every bit of his over-6'6" wingspan to contain the 6'7" Graham. And he'll get help from additional members of the Seattle secondary and linebacking corps.
"We think [Graham]'s a great player," said Pete Carroll via Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune, "and it's going to take everything we've got to try and slow him down."
Sherman will benefit from a solid Seattle pass rush. Then again, New Orleans offensive line has protected Drew Brees all season, allowing the fifth lowest sack total.
If and when Graham and Sherman go head-to-head, Sherman will have the speed and quickness advantage. That should allow Sherman to stay close enough to use his height and vertical to close the window on Brees' passes.
Check out this ESPN Sports Science video that dives into Sherman's unique skill set:
The most important number might be that Sherman can cover seven yards in about 1.3 seconds.
"You can take several things away about the physicality that Aqib played Jimmy with," Sherman said via Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com. "The way he just stood there for the challenge, he didn't back off, he didn't soft shoe, he stood there and battled with him."
Talib is listed at 6'1", two inches shorter than Sherman.
While Sherman and Graham won't be going one-on-one all night, it will be something to behold when they do.
Carroll gave Graham some heavy praise, calling him a combination of Vernon Davis and Tony Gonzalez in an article by Farnsworth of Seahawks.com. Sherman and Seattle held that combination to three catches for 20 yards and three catches for 29 yards, respectively.
How Many Receptions Will Jimmy Graham Have Vs. Seattle?
Sherman is one of the few corners that has the height, speed and physicality to shut Graham down. And if he needs help, Seattle is one of the few teams with the athletes to assist with the task.
Graham will be stymied tonight by Sherman and Seattle—partly because of Seattle's run-heavy offense, their stingy pass rush and their mixed coverages, but mostly because Richard Sherman presents a skill set that Graham won't be able to beat.