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Morning links: Pro Football Focus underwhelmed by Earl Thomas

Post by Eric Williams on July 20, 2013 at 10:18 am with 73 Comments »
July 20, 2013 10:18 am
Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas catches a ball during an NFL football minicamp on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle Seahawks’ Earl Thomas catches a ball during an NFL football minicamp on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus recently graded the Seattle Seahawks’ starting lineup for the upcoming year.

Hornsby lists four Seattle players as elite at their positions – Percy Harvin, Richard Sherman, Max Unger and Antoine Winfield as a slot defender in Seattle’s nickel package.

My only beef is with Earl Thomas being ranked only as “above average” on his rating scale.

Here’s what Hornsby has to say about that:

“I know the player’s grade who will get everyone excited is Thomas. The truth is, though, we think — while he’s a decent enough player — bracketing him with the likes of Weddle, Byrd etc. is a long stretch. When I think of the position safety the first word that comes to mind is “safe” and missing 20 of 81 tackles (inc. playoffs) doesn’t give me a feeling of comfort.”

I love what Pro Football Focus does, and it certainly tells part of the story of what is happening on the field. But judging players using numbers-specific metrics does not give us a complete picture, in my view. First off, measuring missed tackles is subjective. Secondly, Thomas, because of his range, has more opportunities than most free safeties due to his speed and anticipation.

Lastly, the true measurement of a free safety is how many times he gets beat deep IN THE PASS GAME, and how many plays he makes. And I think there is no argument that Thomas is elite in this area.

ESPN’s Mike Sando looks at Pro Football Focus’ player rankings from an NFC West perspective.

Danny O’Neil of 710 ESPN Seattle takes a closer look at Seattle’s situation at the safety position.

Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times debates what Seattle receiver will have the most catches this season. He goes with Percy Harvin for most catches, and Sidney Rice for most receiving yards.

Clare Farnsworth of talks with Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn about defensive end Chris Clemons, who was surprisingly left off of the NFL Network’s list of the top pass rushers in the game.

Gregg Rosenthal of puts Seattle’s health concerns at defensive line as one of his top four NFC West questions heading into training camp.

More Rosenthal: The competition for backup running back between Robert Turbin and Christine Michael is among his top 25 NFC position battles. I think I would have replaced this with the competition at right guard between John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy.

Adam Schein of ranks Percy Harvin the most important player on Seattle’s roster heading into training camp.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland pens an interesting article on the lineage of the best quarterbacks in NFL history starting in 1959, ranking who held the crown as best quarterback of the year for each season. Needless to say, no Seattle player makes the list.

Russell Investments has teamed up with Russell Wilson, and will donate $2,000 to Wilson’s foundation for every touchdown pass or run he records this season.

Wilson had the No. 2 best-selling jersey this summer behind San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick.

Clark Judge of CBS Sports lists the competition for the NFC West division crown as one of his 10 storylines to watch for in 2013.

Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports writes that San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh taking the Seahawks to task for the team’s PED issues rings hollow after he traded for former Tampa Bay cornerback Eric Wright, who served a four-game suspension last season for reportedly testing positive for Adderall.

Morning links
Leave a comment Comments → 73
  1. Ha. Give em Hell, Eric!

    Thomas should begin to get his due respect this year, especially if Quinn starts sending him on a few more blitzes, which he should be able to do more of with Winfield coming on board and Wagner coming into his own. A few more QB sacks and a few more INTs will get people’s attention.

    Besides. I like it when Earl gets dissed. It annoys him and motivates him. So keep it up, sports writers!

  2. GeorgiaHawk says:

    Ask Percy Harvin if Thomas is a poor tackler.
    Eric is right. No safety has the range of Thomas and wouldn’t be able to attempt many of the Earl type tackles to begin with.

    We all know who’s best.

  3. MoSeahawk12 says:

    Having Earl back there also allows Kam to go for the knockout shot more often, knowing that if he misses, although rare, Earl will be there to finish it up. Our secondary is like the Borg. They communicate instantly and cover each other. Awesome to watch these guys and have the Legion of Boom in Blue.

  4. Dukeshire says:

    Eric, Thank you and very well said. This is exactly why I take exception to statistic based analysis regarding football (and sports in general). Analysis like this typically uses statistics (often invented or conjured out of nowhere) to support an already determined opinion, with next to zero knowledge of scheme or football fundamentals to support it.

  5. Southendzone says:

    Russell Okung should be pissed, why can’t Russell Investments include him in their promo?

  6. You know, I have a long time of watching the Seahawks and all this talk about them from year to year, and now day to day all year almost! But it’s amazing and heartening, because even if in January it’s all turned out to be mostly BS one more time, this team now is clearly the soundest I’ve ever seen (or heard about in the media)from the ground up that we’ve ever had here frankly since 1976 IMO. But the media coverage now, even though nothing’s happened yet obviously, is also frankly really good. And I doubt if it’s any better elsewhere in the country either IMO. So, yeah, I’m a (somewhat) blind Seahawks fan through and through, but frankly this there’s frankly some “big stick” reality to it. And Wilson brains, resourcefulness and physical ability alone make me almost giddy that we’ll likely be in every game even better perhaps than last year and in 2005…than we’ve likely ever seen before here. That’s very good news, even we haven’t even come out of the chute yet into summer camp. Cherish this while we’ve got it guys, it may last for several years at best, go all the way to the top…and disappear again like the Mariners. But I’m hopeful we’re here to stay for pretty good while now…and thank Paul Allen not merely for paying for all this, but hanging in there with a good head and a full heart with us all.

  7. Hear, hear, bruzyb!

  8. HawkyHann says:

    Of these missed tackles by earl Thomas, getting ran over by Jaquizz Rodgers was the worst. Big missed tackle on little rb in playoff game. Needs to improve, but no denying he’s one of top safeties in league. Always room for improvement..

  9. Funny how much hue and cry there was when I posited that Thomas missed too many tackles, and got trucked too often in run support. Sacrilege! Nice to see Im not the only one who thinks so.

    Still, I think these guys are way off base in their overall judgement of Thomas, and I think Eric nailed it with his reasoning that statistics-based metrics for measuring overall performance are incomplete at best, misleading and wrong at worst–especially for the safety position.

    Earl Thomas is still my fav safety

  10. Some of the missed tackles were a result of the limitations due to his size, but others were less than stellar technique, since Winfield is smaller and a surer tackler. Earl just needs to wrap up better.

    No one can argue about ET’s range and instincts, however, and rating him just above average is a supreme insult.

    That’s ok though, our boys gotta eat. They feed off the hate and disrespect. I’m with you Stevos, keep it comin’ national media fools!

  11. Dukeshire says:

    You’re not the only one who thinks so it seems, but too, you’re not the only one who is wrong either.

  12. Sometimes ET goes for the kill shot, but he can’t bring the lumber like Kam, so he just bounces off. Example, when Jacquizz Rodgers trucked him.

  13. The way to shut these critics up is by not dropping so many int’s and collecting 10+ picks this year. The Legion of Boom will destroy all the records for interceptions this year, IMHO. After the first 4-6 games, we will have Irv and most likely Clem back, in addition to Avril, Bennett, and the young guns Hill and Williams.

    The pressure they bring in the second half of this season will cause so much chaos and confusion the opposing quarterbacks won’t know what hit ‘em. I want the 1st half of the GB game to be the blueprint on how to wreak havoc on a passer.

  14. BTW, anyone else notice the rash of suspensions of other teams’ players for PED use lately? It seems it is a league wide problem, not just a Seahawks issue.

    Jimbo Harbaugh had to get on his high horse and open his pie hole and show himself as the biggest hypocrite. After he said “you’ve already lost when you cheat” and “we want to be above reproach on all things”:

    Ahmad Brooks hits his teammate three times over the head with a beer bottle and punches him in the face, causing a 3 inch cut. He didn’t get charged, which is BS. Preferential treatment for athletes, anyone?

    Niners trade for Eric Wright, who has a pending DUI and was suspended for 4 games for PED use last year.

    Who’s got it better than them? Us. Go Hawks!

  15. Will Hill of the Giants just got his 2nd suspension for PED use. How many is that for NY now, I recall them having a number on the list not too different from Seattle’s.

    Should we start calling the Giants cheaters? Everything the haters say about Seattle?

  16. Duke,
    Sunday July 21,2013 Sherman and Browner and the Seahawks 12 Tour will be at BIG AL’s Pub in Vancouver ,Wash. at 6:00 PM!

  17. Dukeshire says:

    Osbrey – I saw that. Thanks for the heads up though! I’m going to try and head up there this afternoon. I wonder if anyone on here made it to the Kennewick meet up?

  18. flywhtguy23 says:

    Was at the Kennewick camp, and the players were awesome. Some 300 kids showed up, and all of them left with a smile on their face. Sherman, Browner, and Baldwin were there, and they were all great. its easy to criticize these players for all of the bad things you hear, but we all know someone that made a bad decision at least once in their life. When you see these guys in person, they are real people. I have two kids and would have no problem with them looking up to any of these players.

  19. flywhtguy23 says:

    Never seen so much hype for the Hawks. We used to be a couple of injuries from throwing in the towel for the season, but not with this roster. Next man up!

  20. montanamike2 says:

    I wish they had a camp in Montana, i’d drive for a few hours to see that.
    Out of the 10-11 guys that show up in my group to watch the Hawks, 3 of them have Thomas jerseys, i’m in the process of acquiring a Chancellor #31 just to be different and have an enforcer in the group. Other guys wear older Tatupu and Hass jerseys.

  21. flywhtguy23 says:

    Hard to invest $150 in a jersey for a guy that might not be here next year. The downside of always comPETE. The safest jersey to buy today? My order is Wilson, Okung, Sherman, Thomas. I don’t think anyone is safe after 2 years. I have been to several games, not sure I’ve seen an Okung jersey? Too many 12 jerseys in the stands IMO

  22. flywhtguy23 says:

    Montana – want to be different? Get a Hauschka jersey. Might have to make that one yourself. Janikowski is the only kickers jersey I can ever recall seeing. Of course, that was the Raiders, so you can understand why they went with that.

  23. Go one better and craft yourself a Clint Gresham jersey if you really want a one of a kind.

  24. Nobody covers ground like ET, and nobody else on our team plays at the same level of game speed as he does. Wouldn’t trade him for any other FS. Agree w/all the others who note it on here about his overall importance to this defense.

  25. sluggo42 says:

    I’m with ya slave, ET isn’t the worlds best tackler, but so what? This is another reason I’m not bound to stats like a few others are.
    It’s all in how ya spin Em, and how the relate to the big picture.

    Harbarf rings hollow. Uhhh ya….

    Position battles… Sweet. Everything I’ve heard about turbo has been glowing. But how do you keep your first pick off the field, especially in a reduced role to begin with! Man!

    And moffit… And the sweeze, but mostly, what about the carp and mcQ sliding over and benching the both of them?

    And mostly, I wonder if the second year QB can out battle the 7 year vet T-Jack? BobbyK can ya tell me? Hehe

    5 days yaaaaa


  26. William Percival Harvin III is a BAD man:

  27. Jacquizz Rodgers surprised pretty much everyone in the NFL world the day he trucked Earl. I chalk that one up as “aberration”. Everyone knows J.R. is not even close to being that sort of RB. It was just one of those instances where there was a lot at stake in that particular game, and J.R. brought it on a play that probably felt very routine for Earl. Well, Thomas got caught sleeping, and took one on the chin.

    The irony in this (for Rodgers) is that that particular play, with the lowering of his head into an oncoming defender once well past the LoS would be flagged for a penalty in 2013.

    We all know what Earl means to this defense. He’s not the team’s best tackler, but he’s the best in the business at doing what he does against the pass. No other safety in the league right now has his mixture of range, speed and instincts.

  28. I love PFF’s numbers for how thorough they are, but I have also always wondered about their low ratings for ET. I don’t get PFF about their lack of weightage factors (eg the lack of difference in importance between a hold that only prevents a certain sack and one that negates a TD) and that they have no apparent method to take into account scheme differences and difficulty of performance. Like in a diving competition there’s a difference between a swan dive and a double back gainer with a twist (or whatever it’s called). If a DB usually plays quarters coverage or if it’s ET usually back there on his one-some, there should be a degree of difficulty number but there isn’t.

  29. GeorgiaHawk says:

    Matt Flynn has a noodle arm!

  30. dirtbiker_joey says:

    So Harvin, Sherman, Unger, and Winfield are the only elite players on this team? Which means we only had two elite players last year, and doubled that in the offseason. Image how dominant we would be with an elite running back on top of that, instead of that retread we got from Buffalo a few years back. But, I guess anyone could put up his numbers behind a line with studs like Breno, McQustan, and Moffit/Sweezey.

  31. GeorgiaHawk says:

    Lol dirtbiker_joey.

    In my book Wilson, Thomas and Lynch trumps all the other so called elite players on our team.

  32. rramstad says:

    Just finished watching the two Seattle playoff games from last year.

    Zach Miller was amazing in both games.

    Earl Thomas was amazing in both games.

    Anyone who doesn’t see the value of either of these guys as elite clearly didn’t watch either of these games… without either one of them, we weren’t going to be even close!

    I felt good about both games after watching them again. The team certainly was resilient and there were so many things in the ATL game, any single one of which had gone differently, and we could have easily won it. The offensive play calling in the first half was pretty terrible, and the defensive play calling at the end of the game was inexcusable… but there were execution problems at times, too, with the players, and of course we were missing some key guys.

    I think failing to get to the NFC title game last year will make our guys hungrier this year, and having to be on the road last year for the playoffs will make them that much more eager to take the West.

  33. MoSeahawk12 says:

    Pro Football Focus misses the point I think. Stats alone hardly tell the story. The rankings are inaccurate and don’t seem to have any actual game footage they are based on. They say Lynch is average and Thomas is above average. In what league? Lynch was #3 last year in yards and teams knew we were going to run with a rookie QB. They basically said Wilson won’t beat us at QB. The only way the Seahawks beat us is with Lynch running and they stacked the box every week. He still has almost 1600 yards. That is beyond average. Another stat machine ran by guys that never played football at any level. I’m glad I never invested my time reading this stuff. Thomas is on another level. Stats come into play of course and Earl dropped at least five picks last year, but come one. There is no Legion of Boom without Earl. I think his next contract will tell the story about his value. I’m going to guess he’ll be the highest paid safety in the league soon.

  34. bbnate420 says:

    Harbarf shows himself to be an ass again. Surprise, surprise. God I’d love to see the Hawks shut his fat pie hole 2-3 times this year!

    As far as sites for football statistics go, Football Outsiders is a million times better than PFF IMO. Tackles and obviously missed tackles are highly subjective. They need to be taken with a grain of salt. I also question if the people at PFF have the skill to be grading players and plays based on the scheme and interaction between players.

    With that said, I still don’t get why so many people hate on statistics overall. Sure they don’t tell the whole story and have to be placed in proper context. What else out there doesn’t? What else tells the whole story? At least statistics are somewhat objective. I wonder what percentage of the amateur scouting reports on here are incorrect? I’d bet a really high percentage. And I don’t mean amateur in a Yankster/ACIB way. I just mean that I assume that 99.9 % of the people here aren’t paid to be a NFL scout, coach, or executive. I’d personally rather analyze some statistics than listen to someone on here whine about how they’d do a better job than one of our coordinators any day of the week. It’s pretty easy to play from the rail.

  35. bbnate420 says:

    I wouldn’t take another FS in the league over ET. It’s not really even that close to me. Eric Berry is the closest IMO. They should be the top 2 FS for years to come.

    ET is not perfect though. He has areas he could improve on like anyone else. I think his tackling technique breaks down occasionally. I think he’s a pretty good tackler overall, but he could be more consistent if he’s looking to be as good as he possibly can be. I don’t think he has the size to ever really be a thumper. But he is an excellent tackler when his fundamentals are right. Just ask Harvin or AP. I wouldn’t want him trying to be a thumper anyways. We don’t need him breaking down like Bob Sanders.

    Catching the ball more is the area I’d most like to see him improve. I think he will. A lot of players wouldn’t even get into position to catch the ball like he does though. I expect the law of averages to even out and for him to get more INTs in 2013. With speed like he has, he’d probably be playing offense if he had great hands though.

  36. bbnate420 says:

    I’m also surprised that no one is complaining about Beast Mode not being rated as elite. Give me an effing break. He’s clearly a top 5 RB IMO. How is that not elite?

  37. hawkfaninoklahoma says:
  38. montanamike2 says:

    He’d be #2 if so many runs he ripped hadn’t been called back for stupid penalties.

  39. GeorgiaHawk says:

    Good article on Clemons Oklahoma. It sure hurt not having him in the playoffs last year.
    Clems another guy like Lynch that puts up elite numbers imo. I can’t wait to see him back on the field.

  40. raymaines says:

    bbnate says it’s pretty easy to play from the rail. I’ll add that it’s easy to play in retrospect and with hindsight. Even I can call a pretty good game on Monday morning.

  41. sluggo42 says:

    Nate, I ink stats have a huge part in making conclusions, and are a great illustrating tool for such, but not the end all. Just like they were misread to rank both ET and Lynch.

    It’s like a baseball player that’s hitting .402. Yup, the guy is a good hitter bases on stats. But he also might not understand which base to throw to from right field, or he has a glitch in his throwing motion that at key moments causes a wild throw OT something that costs his team the pennant.

    Stats are good to a point is all I’m saying, but sure they have a place in the big picture, absolutely.

  42. flywhtguy23 says:

    We can agree to disagree on the importance of stats, but when you look at how journalists look at the position, they grew up with FS like Lott, Atwater, etc. Thomas doesn’t fit that mold. But the greatness of this Seahawks team is that a players strengths are used and capitalized on. So outsiders comparing Thomas to others is never going to put him at the top. Thats ok by me and probably everyone else on here. I think we need that chip on our shoulder.

  43. Wish I had a better memory. There was a play where ET just skied in front of and batted the ball away from his receiver, meanwhile BB had left his guy and bracketed the intended receiver, but the tip went to BB’s original guy who got some YAC before (was it Sherman?) finally took him outta bounds… Then another time ET skied and got the tip of his finger on the ball but the TE still caught it and gotta lotta YAC, again.

    It just seems that our DBs are aggressive, know what they’re doing, usually make the right decisions, etc. but sometimes the bounces go against them – just bad luck. Other clubs let the receivers make the catch but dump him for no YAC (like ours did at the end of the game vs ATL). Second guessing is so easy… Just glad SEA has the guys they do coaching and playing.

  44. GeorgiaHawk says:

    All this talk about A sophomore slump with Wilson is ridicules to me.
    While defensive coordinators are preparing for Wilson from his last season, Wilson is one or more steps ahead of them.
    It’s hard to prepare for something that is twice prepared for you.

    Wilson is playing chess, while his opponents are playing checkers.

  45. sluggo42 says:

    Wilson is playing chess…. Good one Georgia…

  46. GeorgiaHawk says:

    I really believe that Wilson will be a top 5 QB in the NFL for a long time. He has the smarts and a work ethic almost unmatched. He is the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson of the NFL right now. Don’t judge him for his height. He is an assassin!

  47. dirtbiker_joey says:

    My little quip from last night, “imagine how good this team would be if we had an elite running back,” was a very sarcastic expression of my disbelief that Lynch was not rated as elite. If the defensive backfield is the strength of this team, the offensive backfield is only incrementally behind. and with the Winfield and Michael pickups, both improved in the offseason.

  48. Uh nobody bit the slimeball bait – nice

  49. Lynch should clearly be listed as elite the way he has carried the ball the last few years! A definite omission

  50. SandpointHawk says:

    Slimeball? I shouldn’t ask but my search of the page doesn’t find that term? Noodle arm comes up though…

  51. We know Marshawn’s BeastMode is an elite running game. That’s all that matters. Let the rest of the league FEEL it. They’ll feel it soon enough.

    “The attitude about how to run the ball and win in this league are in place. We can get you down and beat on you now. ” – Coach Tom Cable, June 2013

  52. I didn’t even read the rest of that garbage or the above comments. I like Earl Thomas and, in my mind, know he’s the best FS in the NFL. I could care less about what others think of him (if they don’t share my view that he’s the best). I’ll guarantee that a few of those “missed” tackles are situations where no other FS in the NFL would have even gotten to have had a chance to have missed a tackle. That dude is like a missile and I love that little guy!

  53. GeorgiaHawk says:

    Interesting that arguably our top four players are little guys, and/or short guys.

    1- Wilson.
    2- Thomas.
    3- Lynch.
    4- Harvin.

    Not bad for a team that has a lot of good big guys.

  54. GeorgiaHawk says:

    This is about how I see our roster shaping up. I would put Bates over Kearse though.

  55. raymaines says:

    GH: You’re right of course, RW, ET & PH are genuine little guys, but ML would be terrifying in a bad neighborhood bar on a Friday or Saturday night. A lean, mean well muscled six foot tall, 220 lb. guy isn’t really “small” in most parts of the world. If we’re shooting pool, he didn’t scratch.

  56. GeorgiaHawk says:

    Right, ML would be terrifying in a bad neighborhood bar on a Friday or Saturday night.
    Hell ML would be terrifying at any bar.
    Hard to believe he is our smallest RB.

  57. GeorgiaHawk says:

    “Uh nobody bit the slimeball bait – nice’

    Noboby but xcman. Lol.

  58. Well you must have thought you were being an arce if you assumed that was about you

  59. HonHawksLSB says:

    I can understand where PFF is coming from though, I was really frustrated with Earl just missing out on big plays all throughout his career until late last season and in the playoffs. Remember how many picks he dropped? The game changing play was his mo out of college and I fully expect him to stuff the stat sheet this year.

    Hon Hawks!

  60. Did anyone else make it into the Pub in Kennewick?
    We got there at 2:55 and got the last 3 bar stools together. All the tables were taken and the last bar stool was filled a few minutes later. The fire marshals made them stop serving around 4 until they got down to 300 people. They started serving again about a half hour later. There were a lot of people outside in the 100 degree heat hoping to get in. By the time 6 pm came around it was warmer inside the bar than outside but it was fun!

  61. That Sherman intro is a Great read!

  62. On 7.9.13 PC praised FS Earl Thomas: “Earl is as good as any of the (safeties) I’ve ever coached,” Carroll said. “All those guys are different, and Earl is more like Troy [Polamalu] because of his extraordinary speed and his size and all that. But there’s no end to the potential that Earl has, because he’s so fast and he’s so tough. But more than that, he’s just so driven to be great. He’s just driven to be a great player and a great teammate.” “He can make all the plays. He’s learning. He talks so much differently now about the game than he did a couple years ago – and what he sees and what he expects and how he reads things.”

  63. Lynch isnt elite?! My ass. That guy busted out long runs–70 plus vs the Rams, right?!–and constantly gets positive yardage out of plays that should have lost yards. He’s awesome, and I wouldnt trade him for anyone other than AP.

    Dukeshire–You may not have read all of my comment. I also believe Thomas to be one of the top FS in the league, overall, and I wouldnt trade him for anyone except maybe Eric Berry. And maybe not then.

    But missing that many tackles–subjective though that stat may be–cannot be simply written off as being simply the by-product of Thomas greatness at covering ground. The fact is, that from time to time, he fails to properly tackle and occasionally gets flat out trucked. Its blind homerism not to see that, IMO.

    Seriously, you guys are insisting that his missed tackles mean nothing, and that they are all the result of him being in on a play no other safety would have made it to–every single time?! Thats just mind boggling. And he dropped at least 5 INT’s last year he should have caught, and thats being kind.

    He has some room for improvement, no doubt, and it doesnt bother me when other folks point to Eric Berry or Eric Weddle as being the top FS, because Thomas isnt the tackler they are. But in my mind, Thomas is perfect for our defense, and getting better, and I wouldnt trade him. I wanted us to draft him, and Im stoked we did. He’s my pick for best overall FS, as he’s good at everything, and the best cover S in the NFL IMO.

  64. bbnate420 says:

    Nobody said that missed tackles don’t matter. Some of us don’t buy PFF’s missed tackle statistic without more information and don’t seem to think he misses as many as you do. Feel free to list all of his missed tackles from 2012. Your opinion/recollection of what a missed tackle is is not fact.

    BTW, plenty of Hawks were missing tackles on the Atl RBs.

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