Will Eagles Stay Away From Sherman?

Kirby Lee / USA Today

Kirby Lee / USA Today

Chip Kelly has confidence in the crew he’s assembled on the offensive side of the ball.

But he’s also not a stupid man.

So when the Eagles’ head coach was asked about the possibility of staying away from cornerback Richard Sherman on Sunday, he offered an appropriate response.

“We always concern ourselves with the personnel on the opposite side,” Kelly said. “You have to know exactly what they’re in, how things are working, the matchups you can exploit or try to attack. I think that’s part of any coach’s game plan.

“I don’t think you just say, ‘Hey, we don’t care who’s over there.’ You really sit down and study the tape and situations. Who do they have in, what they’re doing, do they travel? Do they cover guys on the other side when the receivers switch sides? Do they match up with people? There’s a lot more to it than just saying, ‘We’re not going to throw to the right.’ Because he may not be on the right. He may be on the left.”

There are a number of different stats we can use to demonstrate how dangerous Sherman is. As Kelly pointed out, Sherman has 23 interceptions since the start of the 2011 season, eight more than any other player in the NFL.

Per Pro Football Focus, Sherman allows just one reception for every 17.4 snaps he plays in coverage. That’s the top mark in the league. Opposing quarterbacks have a 49.8 passer rating when targeting him; that’s third-best. According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks have the second-best DVOA against No. 1 wide receivers, who normally line up on Sherman’s side.

“I think if anybody had an opportunity to get Richard Sherman, they wouldn’t say, ‘No, we don’t want him,’” Kelly said. “He’s a prototype that everybody wants. …If there’s a tall, long, physical corner, I think anybody in the National Football League would tell you they would want that guy. There’s just not that many out there.”

Given that the Eagles played on Thursday, Kelly has had some extra time to focus on Seattle, and he spent that time watching film. Chances are during those sessions he got a reminder of Sherman’s ability. Considering the Eagles’ biggest problem on offense this year has been turnovers, staying away from Sherman as much as possible seems like it’ll likely be part of the game plan.

Sherman will usually line up on the (defense’s) left side in the Seahawks’ Cover 3. But when the team plays man coverage, he’ll sometimes move around.

As for the Eagles, Jeremy Maclin usually lines up on the right side, but per PFF, 21.4 percent of his snaps have come out of the slot. This may be a game where the Eagles move Maclin around a little more.

Mark Sanchez went without an interception in the Eagles’ win over the Cowboys. On the season, 24.5 percent of his passes have been to the right side outside the numbers. He’s looked shaky on the out-breaking routes, and attempting those could result in disaster against Sherman and the Seahawks.

Sanchez has been at his best working the middle of the field. Normally, the seams are open against Cover 3, but with Earl Thomas at safety, the Seahawks are an exception.

“They’re probably 60-40 man-zone,” Kelly said. “They’re very balanced in what they do. They’ve got their eyes on the quarterback. They disrupt routes. They’ve got a lot of guys with good ball skills back there in terms of getting after it. It’s a very formidable group.”

Kelly has proven he will tweak his scheme based on the strengths of his own personnel and the weaknesses of his opponents. He’ll need to develop a special game plan this week against a defense that has not allowed a touchdown in eight straight quarters.