Seahawks Insider

Offseason rewind: The Earl Thomas effect

Post by Eric Williams on June 7, 2010 at 11:31 am with 17 Comments »
June 7, 2010 11:31 am
New Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The benefits of the Seattle Seahawks selecting rookie play-making safety Earl Thomas in the first round of this year’s draft are many. But one of the key developments for Seattle’s defense should be the ability to generate more turnovers in the back end of the defense.

Over the past two seasons, the Seahawks ranked among the worst teams in the league in collecting interceptions. Seattle corralled only 22 interceptions during that period, fourth-worst in the league behind St. Louis (20 interceptions), Dallas (19) and Detroit (13).

And it’s no surprise that the best in this category over that same time period are mostly playoff teams like Green Bay (52 interceptions), Baltimore (48), New Orleans (41) and Philadelphia (40).

The Seattle Seahawks rank among the worst teams in creating interceptions in the last, two seasons.

Just three years ago in 2007, Seattle was one of the best in the league defending the pass, finishing tied for fourth in the league with 20 interceptions and only giving up a league-best 15 touchdowns through the air that season.

But things have gone downhill since then. Part of the reason was the team’s inability to sustain a consistent pass rush, with players like Patrick Kerney banged up and at the end of their careers. Cornerback Marcus Trufant, the team’s best cover corner, also has been banged up the past, two seasons, resulting in less reliable play in the back end of the defense. The result of Seattle’s two, main defenders involved in the passing game not playing to their potential was the Seahawks ranking last overall in pass defense in 2008 and 30th last season.

Gone are veteran safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell, now both in their 30s. The Seahawks have replaced them with Thomas and Jordan Babineaux – smaller, more-fleet footed defenders who both could play corner.

Veteran Lawyer Milloy also will compete for a starting job, and gives Seattle a thumper in the back end of the defense. Seattle’s seems poised for an upgrade of play here, but still needs to get a better pass rush.

Seattle’s fix for defending the pass is two-fold. The Seahawks have gotten leaner and more agile at the edge of the defense, and will devise more schemes to disguise what defenders will rush the quarterback to confuse the quarterback. This should help improve Seattle’s third down percentage, an important statistic for defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Seattle ranked 19th overall in third down percentage defensively last season at 39 percent. The New York Jets’ defense led the league with 32 percent.

Gone are the days of dominating defenses like Baltimore, suffocating teams and winning 16-13. The new rules favor the offense, and quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees can put points on the board against anyone. So what you’re seeing now is more defenses like New Orleans, with a reliance on pressuring the quarterback and creating turnovers in order to get the other team’s offense off of the field and limiting opponents’ offensive possessions.

Like several other defenses across the league, Seattle likely will play more single safety this season –or Cover 3, (Expertly explained by Matt Bowen of the National Football Post here) – counting on the corners to play more press coverage on the perimeter. This means the free safety, Thomas, will have to cover more ground in the back end of the defense to help the corners, something that his skill set suggests he can do.

Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Trufant recently said that Thomas has shown signs in practice of his rangy ability to make plays all over the field, giving the corners more confidence to take some risks because they know they have help over the top.

“I think it helps out a lot when you know somebody always has your back, back there,” Trufant said. “It’s make your job at corner a whole lot easier. You can do things. You can take some chances on certain stuff if you always know the safety’s got your back.”

Indeed, in talking to team scout Matt Barry soon after Thomas was selected with the team’s No. 14 overall pick in April, one of the main reasons Seattle selected the Texas product was his ability to cover slot receivers and make plays in the back end of the defense. Thomas set a school record with eight interceptions his sophomore season and had 32 passes defensed in 14 games last season, an impressive number.

“What he really has a knack for is reacting to the ball and reacting to what he sees,” Barry said. “He’s one of those guys that is rare athletically in terms of being able to see something and then being able to move. He can react. His reaction time from what he sees to his feet getting there is really quick. … He has the ability to change the game from the safety position and have an impact on the ball. That stuff jumps off tape.”

That’s been evident during OTAs, as Thomas has displayed great anticipation and range in getting to plays at the edge of the defense.

But check out his playmaking ability for yourself in the video below.

General Seahawks
Leave a comment Comments → 17
  1. BobbyAyala says:

    John Gruden rules.

  2. bigsmooth says:

    Love that video. Man, that read he made when he jumped the slant was a thing of beauty. I don’t think Berry could’ve made that play. Shizz, not many NFL Safety’s could’ve made that play.

  3. is it just me or did Gruden do 99% of the talking? Why was Thomas even there?

  4. BobbyAyala says:

    it was espn, baby.

    all flash, no substance.

    but at least gruden talks like my old hs coach.

    Thomas is going to be a beast.

  5. Dukeshire says:

    Good piece Eric. How can anyone not like Thomas? Humble, works hard, talent coming out his ears and honest. When asked why he entered the draft early, straight up tells Gruden about his family situation. I can’t wait to watch him play.

    While Thomas will play center field, this is another scheme where upgrading the SS is crucial (hopefully Chancellor will show enough to be there and Babs can be relegated back to the bench). He will have to cover the TE (or outside zone) or turn a potential run back to the inside. (The Sam has dropped into an underneath zone.)

  6. Dukeshire says:

    “is it just me or did Gruden do 99% of the talking? Why was Thomas even there” Gruden is the coach, Thomas the pupil in this situation, that’s why.

    How impressed was Gruden when Thomas told him why he dropped the #2 and jumped the slant? Awesome stuff.

    ESPN is nearly all fluff. Their “coverage” of the NFL is sickeningly shallow. It’s simply bad.

  7. eyeland says:

    I realize that most of you all know far more about football then I ever will. So that’s why I’m posting this question here.

    What are the Hawks going to do with Hill?

  8. What are the Hawks going to do with Hill?

    I don’t think it will have much to do with football!! I think if they thought this was going to blow over he would be playing. I just get the gut feeling we have seen the last of Leroy Hill in a hawks uniform.

    Which is kind of funny since Ruskell was the “we want perfect players” guy and these guys want winners who can play – that being said they have not taken any crap from any of the players so far.

  9. Hill is going to get sent with Branch and Housh to Washington in a Haynesoworth trade and then we’re going to sign T.O.

    chuckeaston is now going to vomit in his throat.

  10. chuck_easton says:


    You’re KILLING me!!!!!!

    Just remember, I know when you’ll be in Seattle. hint, hint…

    I’ll fly in just to have ‘words’ with you personally if that happened because I’ll blame you personally. :)

  11. Dukeshire says:

    “I don’t think it will have much to do with football!! I think if they thought this was going to blow over he would be playing. I just get the gut feeling we have seen the last of Leroy Hill in a hawks uniform.”

    This is my feeling as well. As it stands, he’s missed every workout, every OTA and soon to be every mini-camp at the request of the team. A team that preaches competition and effort has asked him to stay away. Not a good sign. Whether by trade or by release, I’d be shocked if he were a Seahawk on September 12 when the season starts.

  12. We just went on a walk and I asked my 3 1/2 year old daughter how many INTs Earl Thomas is going to have this year and she said “6-7-8.” If she’s right with either of those three options, I’ll take it.

  13. chuck – if you fly in on that weekend, you can be in on the burning of an authentic Branch jersey:)

  14. The gap between Eric Berry and Earl Thomas wasn’t that significant, in my humble opinion at least, so I think we made our best pick in the draft here and Thomas will hopefully be the playmaking star that we all hope he will, and he has the ability’s along with the mindset and dedication to do it, I can’t wait to see what he does.

  15. oceanic says:

    The Seattle PI site has a good article, “The five best home field advantages”.

    The game that gave one of the most famous NFL quotes “We want the ball and….” well, you know. Anyway, it is on the NFL channel starting at 8:00 this AM. A good game until the last seven seconds in OT.

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