Richard Sherman likely to shadow Julio Jones on Sunday

RENTON, Wash. -- Richard Sherman was asked Wednesday about the criticism that gets directed at cornerbacks who don't shadow opposing No. 1 wide receivers.

"People are like, 'Oh man, you're not following him. You're scared of him.' It's like, I don't call the defense," Sherman said. "I don't call the plays. They call the plays. I do what they tell me to do. And the receivers are the same way. They run the plays that they are told to run. They don't get to go out there and make stuff up. So people need to understand that. But obviously it makes for great talking points, I guess, for the people who don't know football and don't know anything about anything. It gives them a conversation to be had."

Sunday's game between the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons features a matchup between the top-ranked offense and top-ranked defense in the NFL through five weeks of the season. And at the heart of it could be one of the great individual matchups of the season: Sherman vs. wide receiver Julio Jones.

Early in Sherman's career, the Seahawks were reluctant to move him away from his usual spot at left cornerback. But that has changed. In Week 4 against the New York Jets, Sherman traveled all over the field with wide receiver Brandon Marshall. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Sherman lined up at left cornerback on just 26 of 65 snaps. Marshall caught four balls for 89 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets. Sherman finished with a pair of interceptions.

Last year, the Seahawks had him shadow players such as Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant for much of the game. It's a tool that defensive coordinator Kris Richard has used more and more frequently.

"It gets easier the more you do it, [like] anything," Sherman said. "If you never dribble with your left hand, and they only ask you to dribble with your right, you're not going to be great dribbling with your left hand. But if they ask you to dribble with both, then you'll be adept at it. But it's been something that's been fun for me whenever they ask me to do it, whenever the challenge presents itself.

"It's just the footwork, the footwork is different, the footwork from side to side is different. It's like asking a left tackle to switch to right tackle. You rarely ever see that. You hear a lot about corners flipping, but you don't ever see great tackles following the ends. You see Von Miller on the right, you don’t see left tackle move to the right to follow Von Miller. But that's nobody’s business. It's just one of those things."

The Seahawks obviously will not reveal their plan for Sunday's game, but given how they've used Sherman over the past two years, it seems likely that he'll shadow Jones. DeShawn Shead's strength is going up against bigger receivers such as Mohamed Sanu, so playing the matchups makes sense.

"It's all of the circumstances," Pete Carroll said. "It's the players that we’re playing against. It's the matchups from our team to their team. It's the next level of guys that we match up against, what's necessary in the game plan. We just take a bucket full of thoughts and decide what seems to fit best."

Speaking about Sherman's evolution specifically, Carroll added, "I think just over the course of time, getting flipped over on the other side early on when he was just playing on the left side, he just had more opportunity to become comfortable. It's different, it's not the exact same. It feels different when the ball is in the air, particularly on the deep ball, and guys have to get accustomed to that. He is there, he can do all that now. But it's also not just him. It has to do with the other guys. If the other player is flipping, that's part of the variable also. We're at a point where we can do whatever we need to do now."

The Seahawks don't care about proving a point about how valuable Sherman is to their defense. They care about slowing the Falcons' potent offense.

And chances are, their best opportunity to do that Sunday will involve Sherman shadowing Jones.