Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman likes to be in your face. Not just because he plays press coverage about 50 times per game. He also confronts receivers with smack talk and pleads with quarterbacks to dare throw in his direction.
A year ago, the one-time Stanford receiver declared himself the best pass defender in the NFL, which caught the attention of then-Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
"I haven't really studied film on him to really make an assumption on him being the top guy, but he can play," Revis, now with the Bucs, said last week. "I love his game. He makes plays. That's all that's said. He makes plays.
"Those guys, you've got to tip your hat off to Seattle. They've been playing for a couple years together. This is our first rodeo with me, Dashon (Goldson), Mark (Barron), Johnthan Banks and Leonard Johnson. So we're still trying to click together and get things right. But at the same time, we feel confident. We had spurts of making great plays."
Overall, the Seahawks' secondary — the self-proclaimed Legion of Boom — has few peers. Sherman, 25, who watched 153 players chosen ahead of him in the 2011 draft, anchors a unit that includes cornerback Brandon Browner, 29; free safety Earl Thomas, 24; and strong safety Kam Chancellor, 25. The Seahawks are third in pass defense, and 11 of Seattle's 13 interceptions have come from the unit, including four each for Sherman and Thomas.
That's what the Bucs had in mind when they traded for Revis and signed him to a deal worth $16 million per year, and signed Goldson (who will sit out today with a knee injury) to a five-year, $41.24 million deal. But Tampa Bay's unit enters today's game against Seattle with only three of its six interceptions — one each for Revis, Barron and Banks. The Bucs, however, have improved 13 spots in total pass defense (from 32nd to 19th) from last season.
Part of the reason they haven't improved more is Revis wasn't himself earlier in the season while recovering from surgery for a torn left ACL. He said Friday that limited his ability to play press coverage.
"He's a good player, and he's having a good year," Sherman said of Revis. "I don't think he's very happy with the way they're using him in the scheme; making him play a lot of Cover 2 and making him play off (the receiver). I think he's much, much better when he's man-to-man. I think any corner that has any pride about himself wants to be in man-to-man situations and wants to do his job. Can't help how you're being used."
While Sherman is having a better season, Revis isn't far behind. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown in his direction only 30 times this season, resulting in 16 receptions, an interception and six passes defensed.
"It's a process I've got to go through," Revis said. "I'm not all the way there yet, but you've got to change your game. I'm getting back to myself. The last game I pressed (Carolina's) Steve Smith every chance I got. I'm getting there. It's a process. I've got to keep on strengthening my leg and getting stronger."
It hasn't always been so civil between Sherman and Revis. In February, Sherman used his stats to support his claim that he was the league's best cornerback. Then a Twitter war erupted.
"I've never seen a man before run his mouth so much like girl," tweeted Revis, referencing a 47-yard touchdown catch by the Falcons' Roddy White against Sherman in the last season's NFC division playoff game. "This dude just steady putting my name in his mouth to get notoriety."
A half-hour later, Sherman responded: "Got off my flight to this hilarious convo. So I have 8 picks, 3 (forced fumbles) and a sack. My season stats looking like Revis career stats."
Revis fired back: "Sit down young pup & wait your turn."
Sherman wasn't done: "One season you will get 8 picks. But it won't happen anytime soon. I did it in my 2nd season. So you have something to chase."
Perhaps because they've never met in person, the rhetoric subsided last week.
In fact, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says time is the only factor preventing the Bucs from taking their place among the defensive elite.
"They've got two incredible safeties," Carroll said. "I loved Mark Barron coming out (of college). Goldson is one of the best competitors that plays the position. How much can you rave about what Darrelle can do? And they're bringing up the young guys. They're going to be a factor, too.
"But those three guys are amazing players, and it's just a matter of time as they grow together. It takes awhile. Our players have been together almost four years now."