NFL

Next guy up for Seattle: rookie Richard Sherman

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RENTON, Wash. (AP)

The surprise is how rookie Richard Sherman ended up as the Seattle Seahawks' first-team cornerback this week, not necessarily that he will be the starter come Sunday against Cincinnati.

Consider it the process of elimination in Seattle's secondary.

''The way it's happening is more the way I wouldn't have wanted,'' Sherman said. ''The way (Marcus Trufant) went down, the way (Walter Thurmond) went down is probably not the way I would have wanted it to happen, but it's happened this way so I try to be prepared for it and do the best I can in this situation.''

Sherman is expected to make his first NFL start this week when the Seahawks return home to host the Bengals and the rookie duo of receiver A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton. It's been a quick rise up the Seahawks depth chart for the rookie fifth-round pick out of Stanford and mostly out of necessity.

First, Trufant, the Seahawks' longest-tenured player, went on injured reserve with a recurring back problem that first surfaced in 2009 and was aggravated in Week 4 against Atlanta.

Then, when Seattle returned from its bye last week, Thurmond suffered a broken fibula and significant ankle damage in Cleveland and could be out four to six months.

Now it's up to Sherman to fill a role he wasn't expected to be thrust into this season, a rapid rise for the one-time college wide receiver trying to bring those pass catching smarts to playing defense.

''He has a natural feel for routes and things that allows him to react quicker than the guy that doesn't have that background and has only been a corner,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''Sometimes guys can make use of it, sometimes guys don't and I think it's given him a chance. It's given him a chance to play in short order. He played very well in the game last week and he has a chance to really blossom and have big upside.''

What makes Sherman unique - along with Seattle's other starting cornerback, Brandon Browner - is his size. Sherman is 6-foot-3 and about 195 pounds while Browner stands 6-4 and 220 pounds. They're rarities in a league were the majority of cornerbacks are undersized as compared to the larger receivers.

But the two lack experience. Browner's entire NFL career is the first six games of this season after spending the past four seasons playing in the Canadian Football League. Sherman only made the switch from wide receiver to cornerback before his senior season at Stanford.

''There's just not very many guys like that,'' Carroll said. ''I do think that they fit the mold - we almost stereotype the mold of receivers being a tall, lanky guy that's going to take the ball away from you and the smaller, faster guys are the guys that are going to chase those guys, the corners. I'm really excited about this.''

Sherman made the switch in college because of a need at the position and to improve his own NFL prospects. Having played receiver for most of his football career, making the switch allowed Sherman to bring some insights to the position others did not have.

''It helped more than you know,'' Sherman said. ''It helped more with the subtle things: the knowing routes, knowing receivers, movements and how they're getting in and out of breaks, the weaknesses of certain routes, the weaknesses of certain receivers.''

Sherman played the entire second half last week against the Browns after getting some spot duty two weeks earlier in Seattle's win over the New York Giants. Now comes the challenge of the Bengals, who are coming off a bye week and are riding a three-game win streak.

Seattle's secondary may get an infusion of experience if cornerback Roy Lewis comes off the physically unable to perform list and is activated for Sunday's game. Even if Lewis is ready, the likely starting combo of safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, and Browner and Sherman are all still in their NFL infancy.

''The other 10 guys have worked too hard to have you come in there and not give everything you have and be prepared,'' Sherman said.

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Follow Tim Booth on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ByTimBooth

Tagged: Bengals, Seahawks, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman

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