Seahawks’ Tharold Simon gaining confidence, making plays
Tharold Simon’s career with the Seahawks got off to a slow start, due to injuries. But he came up with this first interception at Philadelphia. “He has a chance to be our best corner as far as God-given ability,” says Earl Thomas.
Seattle Times staff reporter
On the flight home from Philadelphia, cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Tharold Simon pulled up video from that night’s 24-14 win over the Eagles.
Simon had made his first NFL interception, and he kept the game ball for future display. But Sherman wasn’t focused on the now.
“I know you’re going to be real good one day,” he told Simon on the plane. “I believe you’re going to be better than me one day.”
Simon was taken aback. And yet Sherman isn’t the only one heaping such praise on Simon, who has played nine NFL games.
“He has a chance to be our best corner as far as God-given ability,” Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said.
Of all the pleasant surprises to unfold for the Seahawks this season, perhaps none holds as much promise as Simon.
Simon has all the physical tools — the size, the long arms, the speed — to turn into the next great Seattle cornerback. But he has also been prone to lapses and mental mistakes.
“Where Sherm separated himself is unbelievable because he’s crazy up here,” Thomas said, pointing to his head. “He’s a quarterback playing corner.”
Simon has always carried the confidence to be an elite cornerback. Earlier this season, when he had played just a handful of games, he said, “I think I’m one of the best athletes out there, and if I could put it out there and everything, a lot of people will know this kid is special. I believed it before I even walked in here.”
He also looks like a Pete Carroll cornerback. Simon is 6 feet 3, and his long arms allow him to redirect receivers and contest passes in the air.
Sherman said he sees a little of himself and a little of former Seahawk Brandon Browner in Simon. Louis Riddick, the former NFL scout now working for ESPN, heard similar comparisons between Simon and Browner but said, “I know some people who thought he was better than Brandon Browner.”
Yet Simon’s career has taken strange twists and turns.
He showed up shortly after the 2013 draft out of shape, then injured himself a few days later. He never played in a game during his rookie season.
He was one of the breakout stars this offseason, but injuries forced him to miss the first five games. He was pressed into duty against the Rams, then promptly picked up two penalties in the span of four plays.
But Simon hasn’t been exposed playing opposite Sherman, and he has adopted the technique the Seahawks teach their corners.
The Seahawks play press coverage, and they use a technique called the “step kick” that demands patience.
“When I got here I remember Sherm was on me about it because I was like, ‘I don’t like this,’ ” Simon said. “But once I got it, I’ll never go away from it, no matter what. If I go somewhere else, I’m teaching the corners over there that technique.”
At the snap, Seattle’s corners take a step to the side, then wait for the receiver to make a decisive move up field before “kicking” their leg and tracking the receiver in coverage.
In many ways, it’s like defending a pickup basketball player who shakes and jukes but never moves forward. As long as you don’t bite on the fakes, you’ll be fine.
“If you get up and press, you’ve got to get your hands on the receiver,” defensive-backs coach Kris Richard said. “You can just imagine the guy standing in front of you just shaking and moving around and trying to get open. You’re just sitting there waiting for him. Do all the shaking and whatever you want. But when you go left, you’re going left. When you’re going right, you’re going right.”
Simon is still learning how to corral his fiery emotions. He was ejected from an exhibition game this year for throwing a punch, and he got into a scuffle with Thomas in August.
His 11 penalties are tied for most on the Seahawks with defensive lineman Michael Bennett, despite playing far fewer snaps than most of his teammates.
“I guess in the game it’s being anxious (about) making the play or being anxious (about) stopping the receiver from catching the ball,” Simon said. “I just believe if they’re going to catch it, it’s going to be hard for them. I ain’t giving up nothing easy. I can still do that but get away from a little bit of the grabbing, a little bit of being too physical.”
It’s all part of trying to live up to the bar Sherman set for him.
• The Seahawks signed defensive lineman David King, a seventh-round pick of the Eagles in 2013, and released linebacker Allen Bradford on Thursday. King replaces injured defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs, who is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle.
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org