By Danny O’Neil
“Person of Interest” is a weekly feature in which we put the microscope on one player from the Seahawks’ upcoming opponent. This week, it’s Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner.
• Position: Titans cornerback, comprehensive coverage policy
• Height: 5-10
• Weight: 187
• Age: 24
• Experience: Fourth season
Alterraun Verner (20) is tied for the league lead in interceptions with four and has an NFL-high 11 passes defended. (AP)
Turns out that Seattle may not own a monopoly on finding Pro Bowl-caliber defensive backs in the second half of the draft. The Titans drafted Verner out of UCLA in the fourth round in 2010, choosing him with pick No. 104, which was acquired coincidentally enough from the Seahawks. It was one of two rounds in which the Seahawks and Titans swapped spots in the draft order, Seattle sliding back in each case to acquire LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson, neither of whom played a regular-season down for the Seahawks.
This season – the last on his four-year rookie contract – he has intercepted more passes in five games than he did in any one of his first three years in the league. It’s not just his four interceptions, which are tied for the league lead, though. He leads the league in passes defended with 11. Quarterbacks have thrown to the receiver he was defending 28 times so far this season, completing only nine of those throws.
All those stats might not mean as much as the head-to-head comparison he’ll have on Sunday. Seattle is regarded to have the league’s best secondary, and while Verner won’t be defending Richard Sherman or Brandon Browner in this game, it will be interesting to see how his afternoon measures up to the Seahawks’ starting tandem.
The Titans are surprisingly second in the AFC South in large part because of a defense that has been better than expected. Tennessee is tied for fifth in the NFL in sacks with 15 and Verner has more interceptions this season than 11 different teams in the league.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll faced Verner in the Pac-10 and scouted him for the 2010 draft.
“He’s a guy who is somewhat of a risk taker,” Carroll said. “That’s because he’s a good all-around athlete, and he’s got good sense, ball awareness and stuff like that. He is off to a fantastic start.”