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FiveThirtyEight

A few weeks ago, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson told ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss he thought he was worth more than Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. Sherman fired back on Twitter, and Peterson doubled down on Thursday.

“I believe if you put [Sherman] in our system I don’t think he’d be able to last, honestly,” Peterson said on “The Bickley Show with Vince Marotta” on Arizona Sports 98.7 in Phoenix. “I actually do much more than he is … Obviously, his job is definitely much easier than mine. If you look at their scheme and look at our scheme, he’s a Cover 3 corner. Period.”

We can’t assess Peterson’s hypothetical — Sherman being slotted into Peterson’s role — with data because such data doesn’t exist. But, as Sherman already intimated, what statistical evidence we do have makes it difficult to support Peterson’s case. According to Pro Football Focus’s play-by-play grading system, Sherman has finished no lower than sixth among cornerbacks over the past two years; meanwhile, Peterson has finished no higher than 16th.

Looking at their component stats, there’s no area where Peterson beats Sherman: Since 2012, Peterson has allowed a higher completion percentage (53 percent to Sherman’s 49 percent) and a much higher touchdown percentage (7 percent to Sherman’s 2.8 percent). Peterson also has a lower interception percentage (5.4 percent to Sherman’s 11 percent) and a much higher Adjusted Yards per Attempt figure (6.3 to Sherman’s 2.9). Even if you subscribe to the theory that a good cornerback’s primary value is in preventing passes from ever being attempted — which I do — opponents threw at Peterson once every 11.8 snaps, and at Sherman once every 13.7 snaps.

Arizona has been the NFL’s second-best team at defending the pass over the past two years, but Seattle is No. 1, and by a wide margin, according to Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) metric. The difference between the Seahawks and the Cardinals is the same as the difference between the Cardinals and the sixth-ranked San Francisco 49ers.

This could be taken as a point in Peterson’s favor — perhaps the sheer quality of Sherman’s Seattle teammates makes his job that much easier. But that’s another hypothetical. For now, all we really know is that the evidence supports Sherman’s side of the cornerback spat.

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