Tharold Simon made a lot of noise with his long-awaited debut on the practice field. Everyone that saw him play was impressed by the potential that he displayed. The obvious question that follows is how and when might he see the field? The answer may not be what you expected.
Simon is a standout athlete
Seahawks fans know little about Simon, and what they do know is not great. He got in trouble with the law just (a dispute about loud music in his home town of Eunice, LA where he apparently told the police office he “owns Eunice”) before the draft and saw his stock plummet. Then he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in one foot after rookie mini camp, and eventually broke the other foot later in the season.
What Simon does bring to the table is a 6’2″ frame with 32 3/4″ arms (Richard Sherman is 6’3″ with 32″ arms). Like Sherman, Simon has experience on the other side of the ball. He was a receiver and cornerback in high school. He caught 29 passes for 671 yards and four touchdowns as a senior despite missing a number of games due to injury (yes, that again). He also rushed for 122 yards and four touchdowns, indicating he knows what to do in the open field when he gets his hands on the ball.
Path to playing time
Simon has a long way to go before he proves he is worthy of stepping onto the field with the best secondary of the 21st Century (if not all-time), but everyone knows the team’s track record with finding players who can have a big impact on the back-end of the defense. Let’s have a little fun and assume Simon has an outstanding training camp and pre-season and forces the coaches to find him some snaps.
Most corners have earned their way into the lineup by first winning time at the nickel position. Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell started there, before moving outside. Jeremy Lane went the opposite route, starting outside due to suspended players in 2012, and then proving he had potential inside last season after more suspensions.
Maxwell has earned the starting outside role opposite Sherman. Unless he gets injured or reports to camp in terrible condition, it is highly unlikely anyone will supplant him for the starting spot. Jeremy Lane is the front-runner at nickel corner heading into training camp, and Simon would not appear to be well-suited to the slot corner role at his height.
If the coaches decide their best three corners out of camp are Sherman, Maxwell and Simon, they will look for ways to get them on the field. One possible route for that to happen would be if Maxwell mimicked what Carlos Rogers did for the 49ers the past few years.
Rogers was a starting corner on the edge, and then would slide inside in nickel situations to let another corner come on to play outside. Maxwell beat out Lane at the nickel corner spot late in 2012, and has proven himself there.
A configuration of Sherman and Simon outside with Maxwell inside would give the Seahawks unprecedented height where all three corners would be 6’1″ or taller. Unconventional, but not for Seattle. You might wonder if that is the case, why Simon would not just compete straight-up with Lane for the nickel corner position.
He might. But Seattle wants to put players in their strongest role. If Simon is a better edge corner than Lane is a nickel corner, and presumably Maxwell is already a better nickel corner than Lane since he has won that role over him before, the strongest lineup could end up being Simon outside in nickel.
A lot has to happen for this scenario to play out, but if Simon wants to see the field without relying on other players getting injured or suspended, this would appear to be his best chance.