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How do you replace an irreplaceable player? Seahawks face big task following Earl Thomas injury

Seahawks' Earl Thomas is Pro Football Focus' top-ranked safety this season. (AP)

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll confirmed Monday afternoon that safety Earl Thomas could miss two to three months – likely the remainder of the season – with a fractured left tibia, an injury similar to the one Thomas suffered in 2016.

Carroll: Critics need to give Earl Thomas some slack

In his absence, the team will turn to second-year safety Tedric Thompson. Thompson filled in for Thomas during the preseason while the All-Pro safety was in a months’ long holdout with the team and received praise from coaches and teammates.

But despite Carroll’s longtime “next man up” philosophy, there’s a clear understanding that replacing a talent like Thomas will be an arduous, if not impossible, task.

“Opposing quarterbacks respect him,” fellow safety Bradley McDougald told 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton after Sunday’s win. “Every week they know where he’s going to be at, they know his alignments. And the plays that he can make, the ground that he can cover, is just irreplaceable.”

McDougald told Clayton that he’ll be missing Thomas’ competitiveness – something he credits for his own performance this season. McDougald has two interceptions, five passes defended, 20 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery through four games.

“I’ve never really focused on that,” McDougald said of the pair having been ranked the top overall safeties by Pro Football Focus. “I’ve heard a lot of good things, that we were a good tandem, but I feel like we were a good tandem because we compete with each other. Earl makes a play, now I feel like I have to make a play. I have to do something to stand up and combat that. That’s kind of how we pushed each other through the first part of this season, we were going back and forth. He makes a play, I gotta make a play. Within our means, of course, within our game, within our responsibilities. Just that continuous strive for greatness and effort is going to be hard to replace. But I have nothing but confidence and respect for Tedric. I know he’s going to step in well-prepared next week and give his all.”

What’s impressive about Thompson?

“His range. He’s a very rangy player. He’s one of the only athletes I’ve seen besides Earl that can really get from the middle of the field to the sideline and make a play on the ball repetitively. Not even guessing; just reading the quarterback and getting a good jump. He’s just a great athlete.”

Thompson will get his biggest test yet this Sunday against the NFL’s top-ranked offense. The Los Angeles Rams — currently averaging 35 points per game — will travel to CenturyLink Field to face the Seahawks for Seattle’s second divisional matchup of the season.

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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