RENTON, Wash. (AP) Tharold Simon never started a game in his NFL career until Week 7 of this season when he finally got to line up opposite Richard Sherman in Seattle's secondary.
Simon was fully aware of what that meant: lots of passes were about to be thrown his way.
''It's actually fun. You want to get challenged and that's the big thing about it. You don't want to go out there and be bored,'' Simon said. ''(Sherman) likes to be challenged, too, every day. That's fun when you go out there and you know they won't challenge him too much. It just gives you more of an opportunity to go out there and show the people what you can do, show yourself, your coaches what you can do out there and go out there and have fun.''
Sherman will always receive the majority of the attention in Seattle's secondary. But the unwillingness of quarterbacks to challenge Sherman this season - beginning with the opener against Green Bay - has created opportunities for Simon and Byron Maxwell to show off their skills.
So far, they've matched what's become the standard set by Seattle's talented secondary, helping the Seahawks have the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL.
''Every corner we have in here, every DB, it's just greatness in that room,'' Seattle free safety Earl Thomas said. ''... Everybody is absorbed in that room because we really love what we're doing, we love the environment.''
At this point, Maxwell is used to playing across the field from Sherman. Maxwell started five regular-season games last season, all three postseason games and entered this season the established starting cornerback on the right side. He's started nine of 13 games this season, only leaving the lineup because of a calf injury suffered in Week 6 against Dallas.
Since returning from the injury Maxwell has added another layer to his game, in part because of how well Simon has played. When facing bigger wide receivers, Seattle has recently moved Maxwell inside to cover slot receivers when extra defensive backs are needed, putting Simon on the outside.
''He's worked there before. When he was first coming up through the ranks, he was working as a nickel so he has background in it,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''He always did OK, so we knew he had that in him. We hadn't featured him in it yet. He's done really well. It was really cool to see that happen.''
Maxwell's move inside was most noticeable last week against the Eagles when he had four tackles and two passes defensed. While Maxwell was batting passes away meant for Jordan Matthews, Simon was stepping in on the outside.
Seattle has finally got a chance this season to see Simon, a third-round pick in 2013 who spent the entire season on injured reserve. The experience he's gotten showed last week with the first interception of his career. Simon had a decision to make on which of two wide receivers to follow. He made the right choice, jumping in front of Riley Cooper for his first career pick.
''I was like, `OK, let me stick to this one,' and the ball just ended up right there, lobbed up, and I went up and got it,'' Simon said.
According to STATS, Sherman and Maxwell have been targeted 57 times each this season, but combined they've allowed only one touchdown. Simon has yet to give up a touchdown pass either, and the ball for his first interception was still sitting in his truck as of Wednesday.
''We're flexible now. We have flexibility,'' Carroll said. ''We can look at matchups and do what we need to do.''
NOTES: C Max Unger (ankle/knee), TE Cooper Helfet (ankle) and DE Demarcus Dobbs (ankle) all did not practice Wednesday. Carroll said earlier in the week that Helfet was ahead of Unger in recovery from their injuries. ... CB Jeremy Lane (buttocks) was a full participant in Wednesday's practice and is expected to play Sunday.
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