The past few days has seen plenty of chatter about Richard Sherman’s recovery from his torn Achilles. Over the weekend, on his very first padded 1-on-1 drill since returning from the injury, Sherman was burned by wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. The receiver got past Sherman and then was off to the races.
On Tuesday, fullback Kyle Juszczyk met with the media, and he was talking about being aggressive in camp and trying out new things. He said that after Sunday’s practice, head coach Kyle Shanahan used the Goodwin play to offer praise of Sherman.
“Everybody saw the clip of Marquise and Richard in 1-on-1s. And he actually used that as a coaching point. He didn’t get up there and bash on Sherman like, you know, ‘We paid you this much and you come out here and give us that.’ No, it was nothing like that. It was, he actually complimented him because it was his very first rep in 1-on-1 since he’s been injured and he didn’t hesitate. He was extremely aggressive on the line of scrimmage, and yeah, he got beat, but that’s what 1-on-1s are for. So I tried to take that into 1-on-1s and try to be aggressive. If a guy like Reuben gives me a spin move and he gets me, at least I put it out there on the table and was giving everything I had.”
On Tuesday, the 49ers live streamed early drills, and we saw Sherman getting work against Pierre Garçon in 1-on-1s. Garçon got past him easily to win the first matchup. In the second one, it looked like he was moving past him, but Sherman was able to get a little more physical down the field and Garçon stumbled a bit, preventing a completion. On the third matchup, Garçon ran a short route to the interior of the field, and Sherman was able to get an interception.
Sherman’s game has not been about speed, but on the 1-on-1 go routes, it has looked like he’s missing an extra gear, even against a guy like Garçon. However, even if he is not back to pre-injury form, there is one thing to factor in when assessing the play — what the 49ers secondary is working on in those drills. Matt Barrows offered this:
A lot of hand-wringing about Richard Sherman getting beaten by Marquise Goodwin yesterday. Noteworthy that #49ers D has been playing very little bump coverage, its strength. Working on zone and off coverage so far in camp.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) July 30, 2018
Sherman’s game is getting physical at the line, but it’s also worth noting he’ll have safety help over the top if he ends up facing off against some of the faster receivers in the league. The point being that while we should be cautious in what we see of Sherman at this early stage in his return from a brutal injury, it is also worth waiting to see what happens when the team is on the field as a whole, doing what they do best.
I’m not here to say Sherman is back to pre-injury form. It is unlikely that he is given the nature of the injury. At the same time, the nature of training camp means we see some highs and some lows, and it’s important not to get too high or too low without broader context. It applies across the board, but it is worth pointing out given the potential impact Sherman could have on this defense.