As we approach the Top 10 of our countdown, perhaps the biggest question among the starting 22 is who will start opposite Richard Sherman? Jeremy Lane was a major disappointment a year after receiving a four-year contract extenion.
Lane, the sixth-round pick in 2012, has already more than returned his draft value to the Seattle Seahawks. An above-average nickel corner coming into 2016, Lane appeared set to take the next step and become the starting corner opposite Richard Sherman.
The change appeared to be too much to handle for Lane, however, who quickly lost the job to DeShawn Shead.
Despite the move back to his more natural third corner spot, Lane continued to struggle. He was unable to generate a turnover, and was able to register just three passed defensed. He was picked on in the slot, and was just a below-average corner is every aspect of the game.
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Thankfully, Shead stepped in and played well for Lane. However; the Seahawks may not have that luxury early in 2017. Shead figures to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which would make him ineligible to play in the first six games of the season. Rookie cornerbacks Shaq Griffin and Mike Tyson are unknown commodities.
It is likely that the Seahawks will allow Lane to battle with Neiko Thorpe for the outside corner spot. Lane, who signed a four-year, $23 million deal last offseason, will have to battle with two rookies and a career special-teamer for a starting spot.
Whether or not Lane can take back his outside corner spot is only part of the intrigue. The Seahawks run nickel 63% of their defensive snaps. This means three corners are on the field most of the time. If Lane cannot take a job from Thorpe, he must return as a solid, above-average slot corner.