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For cornerbacks, size counts more than speed

Published: Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 - 10:54 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 - 6:29 am

Speed is great when it comes to NFL cornerbacks. But size can be better.

That was a lesson learned from the Seattle Seahawks, who parlayed a stable of big, physical cornerbacks who went largely ignored in the draft into a Super Bowl title this month.

Seattle’s defensive dominance also has made cornerbacks who can play press coverage all the rage at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

“You have guys like Richard Sherman, elite cover guys who are aggressive and physical,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said when asked about the Seahawks’ defense. “They fit that scheme. Defensively, I think we’re close. There are a few more pieces to the puzzle I think we need to add, but just the way we played defensively last year, I’m extremely proud.”

Oregon’s Terrance Mitchell (Burbank High School) will perform in the 40-yard dash and other drills today in Indianapolis. He has stressed to coaches and general managers in interviews that he’s a physical player and he’s comfortable inching up to the line of scrimmage and playing press coverage.

“That’s my game,” he said. “I’m coming into the NFL ready for that, because that’s what I like to do.”

Most defensive backs concentrate on their speed as they prepare for the combine. Mitchell said he actually bulked up a bit and now is 193 pounds.

“All the pounds count,” he said. “So I put on a couple of l-b’s.”

Other cornerbacks are saying the same things, and Sherman’s name has been on the lips of every defensive back.

“I’d say Richard Sherman or (Darrelle) Revis,” said Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson, when asked to compare himself to an NFL cornerback. “As far as Richard Sherman’s length and (ability) to bump-and-run and play the ball down the field; Revis for being the lockdown corner.”

Mitchell’s agent, Jeff Sperbeck, said the cornerback position isn’t as much about speed as it once was.

“Most passes are gone (in) under 2.5 seconds,” Sperbeck noted. “So if a corner can match up at the line of scrimmage and jam the receiver, he’s less apt to get into his route, thereby destroying the timing between (him) and the QB. That’s what makes aggressive press corners so valuable.”

Read Matthew Barrows’ blogs and archives at and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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