Richard Sherman didn't live up to his own lofty standards in his first season with the 49ers.
Sherman failed to record an interception for the first time in his NFL career in 2018, and he compiled a career-low four passes defensed during his first season with San Francisco. His debut campaign was solid, but by his own account, Sherman played "on one leg" in 2018 as he recovered from tearing his Achilles tendon during the previous season.
But Sherman is healthy now, and the 31-year-old is playing like the cornerback who earned a reputation as one of the NFL's most fearsome defenders. Through eight games, no cornerback has held opposing quarterbacks to a lower passer rating than Sherman, according to Pro Football Focus.https://twitter.com/PFF/status/1191871825078300672
As NFL writer Vincent Frank noted Tuesday morning, opposing QBs would be better off, statistically, spiking the ball instead of targeting Sherman.
Fun fact: Quarterbacks this season would have a better passer rating (39.6) spiking the ball every time rather than targeting @RSherman_25 (35.7).— Vincent Frank (@VincentFrankNFL) November 5, 2019
Sherman's health is a driving force behind his return to form, but the 49ers' improvement along the defensive line can't be underestimated, either. The 49ers drafted Nick Bosa (7.0 sacks) with the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft, traded for Dee Ford (5.5 sacks) and have seen Arik Armstead grow into a pass-rushing dynamo (5.5 sacks) in a contract season. San Francisco is much better up front than it was in 2018, and opposing QBs are under far more duress as a result.
The statistical differences are stark. A season ago, the 49ers tied for 22nd in the league with 37 sacks and set an NFL record in futility with just seven forced turnovers. Through eight games this season, the 49ers already have 30 sacks (third) and 16 turnovers (tied for fourth).
The 49ers' defense has led San Francisco to its first 8-0 start in three decades, but Sherman still identified areas for improvement ahead of Monday night's NFC West showdown with the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium. It's easily the venue's biggest game since the Sherman-led Seahawks embarrassed the 49ers on Thanksgiving five years ago, and Sherman infamously ate turkey on the field after Seattle's 19-3 win.
Sherman is playing as well as he did then, and the 49ers will be glad he's on their side this time around.