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Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 3, FS Earl Thomas

Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas had his 2016 season cut short by a broken leg. (AP)
LISTEN: Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 3, FS Earl Thomas

During each show until the start of training camp, “Brock and Salk” counted down the 20 most intriguing players on the Seahawks’ roster. The countdown continued with free safety Earl Thomas. The segment on Thomas is embedded above. Brent Stecker’s thoughts are below.

The intrigue

Earl Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler, has been named a first-team All-Pro three times, and is regarded as arguably the best free safety in the NFL. Frankly, he’s been so good for so long that entering each season, nobody really bats an eye at the expectation that Thomas will play like a superstar. That all changes this year, though. Thomas is on the comeback trail from a broken leg that ended his 2016 campaign five games early, marking the first time in his career that he had ever missed a game due to injury. For as predictable as Thomas has been on the field, he’s always been a bit of an enigmatic character when using words, and the injury brought that to the forefront. He tweeted almost immediately that he was contemplating retirement, something that Seahawks fans no doubt are thankful didn’t come to fruition. And throughout his recovery and leading up to training camp, he has shown that he is an incredibly determined individual who is eager to prove – especially to himself – that he can come back playing at the same level as before his injury. “When I step back on the football field, I have to play with the same courage, take the same power in my steps, take the same alignments and have that same mental edge that I bring to the game normally,” he said in June on 710 ESPN Seattle.

By the numbers

77.8. That’s the passer rating opposing offenses posted against the Seahawks when Thomas was playing center field for Seattle in 657 snaps in 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The number soared to 100.3 in the 480 snaps that Thomas was out of action. The Seahawks also had 10 interceptions when Thomas was playing as opposed to one when he wasn’t. It all adds up to a pretty significant impact that his presence brings for Seattle.

119. Thomas played that many straight games to start his career, postseason included, before the broken leg ended his streak. That also includes a time when he had a torn labrum in his left shoulder, which he suffered in the postseason in 2014 and had surgically repaired after Seattle’s Super Bowl loss to New England.

Notable

Thomas is under contract through next season, and what happens in 2017 will factor in to whether or not the Seahawks will lock him up with another lucrative contract extension. The duo of Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor has been a trademark of Seattle’s defense since Pete Carroll and John Schneider drafted the pair in 2010, but the team started re-stocking its secondary in earnest in this year’s draft, and Chancellor could be gone next year as he hasn’t yet been signed to an extension. If Chancellor goes elsewhere, what will that mean for Thomas?

Quotable

Even with the quantifiable evidence that the Seahawks played much better with Thomas on the field in 2016, he said in June that he’s focused on ways to improve his ability to make interceptions after making just two in 11 games last year. “When I look at my film, my point of attack tape, there’s so much I can get better at. It’s just the little details, even in my steps, my alignments, it’ll put me in that better position to make these interceptions instead of almost catching them. I had plenty of chances to change the game for us and I missed interceptions. Those are the plays that I want to make and close for us.”

Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 20, WR Jermaine Kearse; No. 19, K Blair Walsh; No. 18, S Bradley McDougald; No. 17, RB Thomas Rawls; No. 16, DT Jarran Reed; No. 15, DE Frank Clark; No. 14, WR/KR Tyler Lockett; No. 13, WR Amara Darboh; No. 12, CB C.J. Prosise; No. 11, RT Germain Ifedi; No. 10, S Kam Chancellor; No. 9, TE Jimmy Graham; No. 8, DL Michael Bennett; No. 7, LT George Fant; No. 6, DL Malik McDowell; No. 5, CB Shaquill Griffin; No. 4, RB Eddie Lacy.