After an injury-filled 2013, the second-year cornerback out of LSU admitted that his rookie season was one he would like to forget, via Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com: “It was a rough season for me. But I’m coming along, getting better each and every day.”
That is music to Kris Richard’s ears. When the Seattle Seahawks defensive backs coach was asked recently about the losses of Browner, Thurmond and safety Chris Maragos, he said, “It’s time for Tharold Simon to step up. It’s next man. Let’s go.”
Richard is right: It is time for Simon to step up. Despite being selected in the fifth round of last year’s draft and missing all 16 regular-season games, the big-bodied corner has always been in the coaching staff’s eventual plans.
“He never got to play football, but the time that he did have out there practicing he showed us some things that we’re accustomed to seeing,” Richard said. “So you look at the upside of what this guy is going to be able to bring to our team.”
The things that Richard and the Seahawks were accustomed to seeing were Simon’s hands, and his ability to track the ball in the air. This should come as no surprise based on the fact he was a tremendous playmaker over the course of his collegiate career.
In 34 career games under head coach Les Miles, Simon tallied six interceptions and 28 passes defended. According to the folks at Sports-Reference.com, his 28 passes defended are the 24th-most in SEC history.
For a 15-game starter, those are incredible numbers. Surely, Simon would have posted even better numbers if he would have returned for his senior season and started more than two games as a sophomore.
However, his role as LSU’s No. 3 cornerback in 2011 could end up being a blessing in disguise. Why? Because some of Simon’s best work came in nickel and dime situations, which will go a long way in his development. As the team’s most impressive slot corner, he showed eye-opening quickness and top-notch coverage skills.
Aside from the fact Seattle plans on using Simon as its No. 4 corner, head coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will give him every opportunity to move up the depth chart during training camp.
The Seahawks are big believers in competition, which is why Simon could potentially unseat Jeremy Lane as the team’s No. 3 corner. As good as Lane was in spot duty last year—20 total tackles and four passes defended—Simon has the attributes Seattle’s coaching staff desires.
He’s tall (6’3”), runs a 4.47 second 40-yard dash and has hips that are more fluid than a corner his size should have, via Farnsworth. Yet, that doesn’t mean Simon won’t have his fair share of problems adjusting to the speed and physicality of the pro game.
In order to adapt, Simon will have to polish his approach at the line of scrimmage. According to draft analyst Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, the Day 3 pick needs an "extensive overhaul with his technique" because he gets too high in his backpedal.
Furthermore, he needs to better understand situational football, challenge wide receivers at the line and correctly anticipate routes. If he can make some minute changes to his game and become a more consistent player, the sky’s the limit for Simon.
Nevertheless, Simon has to continue to keep his nose clean off the field. The ball-hawking corner had to deal with two different off-the-field incidents at LSU.
Per Gary Laney of ESPN.com, Simon was arrested and charged with public intimidation, resisting arrest and unnecessary noise on April 25, 2013. Prior to that, he was suspended for the Auburn game in 2011 after he tested positive for smoking synthetic marijuana.
The good news is he hasn’t been arrested or faced any wrongdoings as a member of the Seahawks. General manager John Schneider and coach Carroll hope things stay that way because Schneider gave Simon a vote of confidence after Seattle drafted him with the 138th pick.
Schneider told Nick Eaton of SeattlePI.com that he doesn’t have any long-term concerns about Simon’s past. “That’s really about all I can say about it,” Schneider said.
Clearly, that’s all he needed to say about it. Simon has kept his name out of the headlines and turned into a student of the game, per Farnsworth: "After they drafted me and I got here, I was like, ‘Man, the Lord works in mysterious ways.’ This is like the perfect environment for me. I’m playing behind and able to learn from some of the best players in the league—Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman."
For the sake of Simon, let’s hope he absorbed everything like a sponge. The 2013 season proved to be invaluable to him from a learning standpoint, and the 2014 season is shaping up to be a time where he can publicly prove the naysayers wrong.
Like wide receiver Doug Baldwin, Simon is just waiting on his moment.