"At this point, he’s well-prepared, and he’s playing as well as any corner in the NFL."
After a stellar performance against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship that culminated in the game-saving play, one might assume that this quote was in reference to Richard Sherman. On the contrary, that statement was penned by Sherman himself in a guest column on mmqb.com. He was talking about fellow cornerback Byron Maxwell.
Maxwell, who's started the past seven games for the Seahawks following the suspension of Brandon Browner, has quietly developed into a rock-solid corner in the NFL's most dynamic secondary. He's registered 12 passes defensed and four interceptions since taking over, and has refused to be picked on despite playing opposite Sherman.
He's displayed top-notch instincts and has embraced the Seahawks physical style of defense. One play in particular against the New York Giants on Dec. 15 stood out to head coach Pete Carroll. "What it shows you, it shows you that Byron is challenging everything," Carroll said of Maxwell's second interception of the day. "And he is totally confident that he can get it done. That's a heck of a play, now, to catch about a 3-yard route and intercept that."
Despite Maxwell's success, his seven-game stint hasn't been without a blemish. With the Seahawks Dec. 22 contest with the Arizona Cardinals hanging in the balance, quarterback Carson Palmer threw a deep pass to the end zone to wide receiver Michael Floyd. Floyd, who was streaking down the sideline, looked to be blanketed by Maxwell.
But Floyd was able to create just enough separation to make the game-winning catch, and the Seahawks lost their first home game since Russell Wilson became the starting quarterback prior to the 2012 season. "It could have been better," said a somber Maxwell when asked about his coverage on the play.
Maxwell and the Seahawks have responded, and they're now playing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Quarterback Peyton Manning represents the toughest challenge of Maxwell's young career, and he'll likely spend a significant amount of time matched up with wide receiver Eric Decker. The 6'3", 214-pound Decker has the size advantage on Maxwell, and he's not your average No. 2 receiving option. He's totalled 3,259 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns in four NFL seasons, and has thrived since Manning's arrival.
Regardless of which receiver Maxwell's tasked with covering, he'll need to play his best football yet to help contain the league's No. 1-ranked offense. "I feel like I’m just as good as our starters and I want people to know it," Maxwell said after the Seahawks' last visit to MetLife Stadium. He's nowhere near as brash as Sherman, but he doesn't lack confidence.
If Maxwell continues his strong play in Super Bowl XLVIII, he could go from being a fill-in who was the 173rd pick of the 2011 NFL Draft to being an integral part of a world championship-winning team.
Talk about a success story.