2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Seattle's Earl Thomas makes Seahawks defense work

    2013-08-15 16:12

(Eds: Adds details, quotes. With AP Photos.)
By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer

RENTON, Wash. (AP) - Questions like this make Earl Thomas uncomfortable.

The confidence he shows on the field takes a backseat when Seattle's star free safety is asked if he is the reason the Seahawks work defensively - even more so than their brash cornerbacks, more so than their talented linebackers or pass rushers. It's natural when he tries to deflect praise as much as possible.

``I don't want to say it's all about me as far as I don't ever want to come across like that, especially to my teammates,'' Thomas said. ``I think it's a collective effort but I play a big role just me being back there.''

On a team where Marshawn Lynch is the beast, Russell Wilson is a media darling and Richard Sherman seemingly can't stop receiving attention, the most important player in the Seahawks starting lineup could arguably be their free safety.

Last season the Seahawks were the best scoring defense in the NFL. When their offense sputtered early in the season, it was Thomas and his defensive mates that held Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay to just 12 points, shut down Tom Brady and New England in the second half and made life miserable for Dallas and Tony Romo.

And the Seahawks are able to play the way they do defensively because Thomas is such a unique mix of speed and skill roaming the back end, waiting to clean up any messes.

But in trying to explain how Thomas makes Seattle's defense work, there is another story about how he's taken those raw skills that made him the 14th overall pick in the 2010 draft and through a mix of maturity, study and determination has created an All-Pro who is still only 24 years old.

He was just the second Seattle safety to ever be named first-team All-Pro, joining Kenny Easley.

``When he first got here he was so enthusiastic about the opportunity to get out there and kind of create certain things and create certain situations, and the more that he has played the more he has begun to understand it's not about creating opportunities, it's about capitalizing on opportunities,'' Seahawks defensive backs coach Kris Richard said. ``And you capitalize on opportunities by being where you are supposed to be, by film study and by calculation and by taking your calculated risks. That's pretty much where it's been. It's time spent in the film room and ultimately his maturation as a leader overall and he's taken off.''

Before Thomas became the star student, the raw skills needed to be there. And much of what Seattle does defensively is predicated on what Thomas can do from the back.

Thomas is undersized for a free safety but his speed and ability to make plays on the ball in the air make up for that lack of stature. Just how fast is Thomas? The Seahawks have red lines running the length of their practice fields, inset just a few yards from the sidelines. The space between the red lines is the area a safety is expected to cover.

``They say from red line to red line here, but he can get sideline to sideline,'' cornerback Brandon Browner said. ``He can open up the wrong way and get back to the other side before the ball gets there. That's the kind of speed he has.''

Because Thomas has that kind of speed and the ability to cover ground, it allows Browner and Sherman to play the physical, press defense that fits their styles, knowing that their help will be able to get there.

``It just allows them to be normal. It's as simple as that,'' Richard said. ``Having a free safety of this caliber allows the corners to be normal.''

Thomas is considered the quarterback of the defense so it's no surprise he'll sit and watch film with Wilson. He studies alignments and splits, looking for any signal of what might be coming.

It was a trait Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn noticed during Thomas' rookie season.

``There were times he'd come up and want extra meeting time and information with the guys,'' Quinn said. ``He didn't want to be a rookie that just `I'll figure it out.' He was more and more and more. The other thing that jumped out at me was his practice habits.''

Thomas said the professional game has slowed down through a combination of doing his homework and more playing experience. It was obvious on the field a year ago and it was why he was the top vote getter among all safeties in the All-Pro voting.

``Every level you go to, it's a sense of game speed as far as everything is moving a little bit faster so sometimes your mind is not ready for it. And you just act on God-given ability,'' Thomas said. ``But when the game slows down, you can see everything and you see the big picture and not get distracted by the big picture and still key in to what you've got to do. That's when you make a lot of plays and when you become great.''

---

Online: AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Johnny ManzielAug 21 08:22a

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel will not have a package of plays created for him to run off the bench, according to head coach Mike Pettine. Manziel has been [ More ]

Geno SmithAug 21 02:23a

New York Jets QB Geno Smith will start Week 1 versus the Oakland Raiders, barring an injury. The coaching staff has yet to officially name Smith the starter.

Geno AtkinsAug 21 12:53a

Cincinnati Bengals DE Geno Atkins (knee) will be ready for the regular season opener against the Baltimore Ravens Sept. 7, head coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday, Aug. 20. In [ More ]

Walt AikensAug 21 12:53a

Miami Dolphins CB Walt Aikens (hand) is sidelined indefinitely due to a left hand injury suffered a practice earlier this week. No timetable has been established for his return.

Tyler WilsonAug 21 12:53a

Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard (hip), DT David King (undisclosed), CB Lavelle Westbrooks (undisclosed) and QB Tyler Wilson (head) were unable to practice Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Andre SmithAug 21 12:53a

Cincinnati Bengals OT Andre Smith (concussion) said Wednesday, Aug. 20, that he expects to get cleared to play in the preseason game Sunday, Aug. 24, against the Arizona Cardinals. [ More ]

Jalil BrownAug 21 12:53a

Miami Dolphins CB Jalil Brown, CB Don Jones, FS Jordan Kovacs and FS Michael Thomas appear to be fighting for two roster spots. Thomas has reportedly had a good [ More ]

Knowshon MorenoAug 21 12:53a

Miami Dolphins RB Knowshon Moreno (knee) said Wednesday, Aug. 20, that he feels good. The team wants to see him practice Thursday, Aug. 21, before deciding if he will [ More ]

Andre JohnsonAug 20 10:43p

Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson has showed no signs of rust from his time away from the team this offseason. Johnson had an impressive practice during joint workouts with [ More ]

Trent RichardsonAug 20 10:33p

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson is off to a slow start in training camp and the preseason, posting just 34 yards in 14 attempts. At 2.4 yards per carry, [ More ]

Emmanuel SandersAug 20 10:33p

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (quadriceps) was involved in practice Wednesday, Aug. 20, but he is not working in 'live' setting yet. Head coach John Fox would not rule [ More ]

Montee BallAug 20 10:33p

Denver Broncos RB Montee Ball (appendix) continues to do more work in practice each day, but most of his work continues to be outside of the team structure. However, [ More ]

LeGarrette BlountAug 20 07:53p

Pittsburgh Steelers RB LeGarrette Blount and RB Le'Veon Bell were charged by Ross Township Police Wednesday, Aug. 20, with marijuana possession.

Le'Veon BellAug 20 07:43p

Pittsburgh Pirates RB Le'Veon Bell and RB LeGarrette Blount were charged by Ross Township Police Wednesday, Aug. 20, with marijuana possession. Bell was also charged with driving under the [ More ]

Ryan McBeanAug 20 05:53p

The Arizona Cardinals signed DT Ryan McBean (Ravens) Wednesday, Aug. 20. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Colt LyerlaAug 20 05:43p

The Green Bay Packers placed TE Colt Lyerla (knee) on the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Pat DevlinAug 20 05:33p

Free-agent WR Kevin Elliott (Bills), LS Chad Rempel (Bears), QB Pat Devlin (Dolphins) and DT Jibreel Black (Buccaneers) all cleared waivers Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Vontaze BurfictAug 20 05:33p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict agreed to a multi-year contract extension Wednesday, Aug. 20. Terms of the new deal were not disclosed.

Isaac SopoagaAug 20 05:13p

The Arizona Cardinals signed DT Isaac Sopoaga (Patriots) Wednesday, Aug. 20, per a league source. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Jordan NorwoodAug 20 04:53p

Denver Broncos WR Jordan Norwood (knee) suffered a torn acute cruciate ligament in practice Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Isaiah PeadAug 20 04:33p

The St. Louis Rams waived RB Isaiah Pead (knee) with a waived/injured designation Wednesday, Aug. 20. Pead will revert back to the roster if he clears waivers.

Phillip TannerAug 20 03:43p

The Indianapolis Colts waived RB Phillip Tanner Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Dexter McDougleAug 20 03:43p

The New York Jets placed CB Dexter McDougle (knee) on the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Aug. 20.

David FluellenAug 20 03:23p

The Indianapolis Colts acquired RB David Fluellen (Eagles) in exchange for PK Cody Parkey Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Desmond BryantAug 20 02:53p

Cleveland Browns DE Desmond Bryant (wrist) recently underwent wrist surgery. Head coach Mike Pettine said he is not sure if Bryant will be available to play Week 1.

S. SylvesterAug 20 02:43p

The Buffalo Bills have placed LB Stevenson Sylvester (undisclosed) on the Reserve/Injured list.

Michael CrabtreeAug 20 02:33p

San Francisco 49ers WR Michael Crabtree said he did not feel like himself when he returned from offseason Achilles' tendon surgery last season. 'I was fast enough to be [ More ]

Fendi OnobunAug 20 02:23p

The Jacksonville Jaguars have waived/injured TE Fendi Onobun (knee).

Eric KettaniAug 20 02:23p

The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed free-agent FB Eric Kettani (Chiefs). Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Sebastian VollmerAug 20 01:13p

New England Patriots OT Sebastian Vollmer (undisclosed) was not on the field during practice Wednesday, Aug. 20. Vollmer has missed the last three practices because of an undisclosed reason.

Peyton HillisAug 20 01:03p

New York Giants CB Prince Amukamara (groin), WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring), RB Peyton Hillis (ankle, foot), OT Charles Brown (shoulder) and OT James Brewer (back) are not participating in practice Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Cody WallaceAug 20 12:53p

Pittsburgh Steelers CB Shaquille Richardson (knee), LB Jordan Zumwalt (hamstring), TE Eric Waters (concussion), C Cody Wallace (finger) and LS Greg Warren (knee) will not play in the third preseason game.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group