Should the 49ers Have Richard Sherman Mirror Davante Adams?
Overshadowed by his team’s 37-8 drubbing at the hands of the 49ers earlier this season, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams quietly had a decent performance, hauling in seven catches for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Including that week 12 game, Adams has seven touchdowns over his last seven games and is averaging 118 yards over his past four games. His recent surge in receiving yards has come as a major benefit to the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now healthy, Adams has reclaimed his spot as an elite wide receiver and the focal point of the Green Bay air-attack.
There is no doubt that the Packers will try to go to Adams as much as possible. Where there is doubt, however, is which (and how many) 49ers will be guarding the playmaker.
If things point toward a best-on-best scenario, it would mean lockdown cornerback Richard Sherman would draw Adams in coverage. Often mislabeled as a zone corner, Sherman has long possessed the ability to shutdown elite receivers in 1-v-1 matchups.
According to Pro Football Focus, over his last 13 games, Sherman has an astonishing 35.2 passer rating allowed on 17-34 completions for just 130 yards. In last week’s Divisional Round win over Minnesota, Sherman allowed just one reception for nine yards and intercepted Kirk Cousins with perfect man coverage.
Outside of Adams, the Packers talent at receiver isn't that impressive. It begs the question to ask: Should the 49ers have Richard Sherman mirror Davante Adams?
Given Sherman’s dominant success throughout this season and his playoff career, it’s hard to argue that he wouldn’t shut down Adams. However, the system that the 49ers operate on defense doesn't utilize mirroring cornerbacks. So the real question is how many chances will Sherman get to guard Adams. If Green Bay is to have any success, expect head coach Matt LaFluer to get very creative where Adams lines up.
Like the rest of the NFL, LaFleur likely understands that picking a fight with Sherman is a lost cause, but there are other ways to work around this. Adams can easily line up in the slot or on the other side of the field. If their most recent matchup is any indication of how Sunday will play out, expect some, but not a lot, of Adams v Sherman.
In week 12, according to PFF just two passes were attempted toward Adams with Sherman in coverage (one completed for seven yards). If the two clashed any other times, Rodgers chose to go elsewhere with the ball.
Just because LaFleur could opt to move Adams around does not mean the San Francisco defense would be in for a world of hurt. Sherman, nickel K’Waun Williams, free safety Jimmie Ward and strong safety Jaquiski Tartt led a formidable secondary that allowed the least amount of passing yards (169.2 per game) this season.
In addition, the 49ers boast one of the best defensive lines, which often limits the time defenders must guard their man.
If there is any vulnerability, it would be whoever starts opposite of Sherman at cornerback. Ahkello Witherspoon will undoubtedly have his troubles if he ends up getting the start. His season has been erratic to say the least. Adams would easily carve him up in coverage. That is why Emmanuel Moseley is more than likely going to get the start. He is fresh off a strong performance in relief of the benched Witherspoon.
The 49ers are likely to ride the hot hand and start Moseley, and the Packers should attack the weakest link with their best player. However, Moseley held his own quite well against Adams in the initial matchup. Of course the pass rush helped tremendously to cover Adams, but should Moseley have to stay in coverage for a bit, he definitely will be able to hold his own at times.
Expect a lot of Moseley v Adams on Sunday. If Moseley can limit Adams, San Francisco should have no problem finding its way back to the Super Bowl.