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Gordon: It Comes Down to Only 2 to Replace Butler

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The era of Malcolm Butler in New England is ending and the Patriots should now be looking for a new face to patrol alongside Stephon Gilmore.

Immediately there have been causes for speculation and rumors regarding two names. The former Patriot Aqib Talib and the verbal but talented Richard Sherman.

With validity and more than a possibility that either of these players could wind up in Foxboro, let’s take a look at the tape and see who’s the better cornerback currently and who will fit better on the roster.

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Durability

When it comes to staying on the field, Sherman dominates Talib in almost every season by comparison. In  his first five seasons, Sherman played in all 80 games and started in 74 of them. Talib on the other hand who though has gotten better with his health as a Denver Bronco, has NEVER played a full 16-game season. The former Jayhawk from the start of his career has faltered in the durabilty category.

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While Sherman did deal with a lingering achilles injury that sidelined the cornerback for the remainder of this past season. Sherman has been more durable and is the better option health wise.

Edge: Sherman

Playing Ability and Fundamentals

Throughout their entire careers, each player has performed at a high level in their own way. Talib is put on the field to follow your best receiver the entire game while Sherman is mostly relegated to shutting down one side of the field.

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Analysts who don’t look at all the film will say that this is a glaring flaw for Sherman but to say he covers only the left side of the field couldn’t be more far from the truth.

In this game against the Carolina Panthers, Sherman was relegated to covering the all-time great wide receiver Steve Smith the entire game proving that going outside the “comfort zone” is more than ok for the 6-foot-3 cornerback.

Fundamentally as well when Sherman does get beat, he is able to make the adjustment on the fly and get back into position.

Photo Credit: Boston Globe

Both players at over six feet can cover an abundance of different weapons as you see Talib and Sherman going against tight ends Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis who at the time were two of the best at their respective position.

When it comes to fundamentals and their playing abilities, both are just as good at doing their jobs.

Edge: Even

Upside

At age 29, Sherman gives you a more longterm option than Talib who’s 32 and can hit a wall at anytime. With a great defensive coach much like current Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn who coached him in Seattle, Sherman with the right guidance still has time in his career to perfect his craft and be a better player especially in a much weaker conference.

Edge: Sherman

Big Play Ability

When it comes to the ability to making the big play or going after the ball, very little at the position outside of Talib do it better. Though both have near identical career interception numbers, Talib has been able to find the end zone 10 times to Sherman’s two making him more capable of changing field position for the better and or getting you points without having to do work on offense.

Comparing both these plays, even in his 30’s, Talib can still explode after the interception where Sherman doesn’t possess that kind of speed.

Edge: Talib

Tackling and Run Defense

While Talib makes the big plays much better than Sherman, Sherman does the exact same thing when it’s time to get dirty. On a physical defense that is known to have the most ferocious players in Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas, Sherman still stands out as his own physical entity.

Sherman pursues the ball relentlessly and like the clip above states, he does not hesitate. Even against receivers turned runners, very rarely do you see someone get passed him as he can square up to any receiver at his size. Sherman  wins this category by an absolute landslide as this is not only one of his best attributes, it is something that team’s prepare for just as much as his coverage ability.

The Verdict

Even though Patriots fans have seen what Talib can give you, Sherman is the kind of player that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick loves. Versatile. Though he is outspoken (look no further than his rant on Michael Crabtree), he backs up his talk and is a leader on the field with his tackling and coverage abilities as well as off the field with his verbal support for teammates on the sideline. While he may get into arguments with teammates and yell at them, this competitiveness is a spark that Belichick loves to have on his squad and is a better fit for the Patriots.

Decision: Trade for Richard Sherman

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