BRADY HENDERSON

Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 14, FS Earl Thomas

Jul 25, 2016, 8:08 AM | Updated: 12:20 pm
Earl Thomas tied a career high with five picks in 2016, but Seattle allowed more big plays than usu...
Earl Thomas tied a career high with five picks in 2016, but Seattle allowed more big plays than usual. (AP)
(AP)
LISTEN: Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 14, FS Earl Thomas

Each day until the start of training camp, “Brock and Salk” is talking with an NFL analyst and counting down the 25 most intriguing players on the Seahawks’ roster. “Two-a-days” continued with Albert Breer of the MMQB.com as the guest and Earl Thomas as the 14th-most intriguing Seahawk. The segment on Thomas is embedded above. My thoughts are below.

Position: FS
Height/Weight: 5-10, 202
Experience: Seventh season
Acquired: First-round pick, 2010

Overview: Thomas’ resume over six seasons includes five Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro selections and 21 interceptions. He’s generally regarded as the NFL’s top free safety, and when he signed a four-year, $40 million extension in 2014, he was the highest-paid safety in league history. Often overlooked among Thomas’ career accomplishments: he’s never missed a game. That streak remained intact last year even as Thomas was coming off shoulder surgery to repair the labrum tear he sustained in the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay. Thomas said he had to fight some “mental battles” last season while coming off the first major injury of his career. He also said the harness he was forced to wear on his surgically-repaired shoulder limited his range of motion and that his conditioning suffered because of all the time he missed over the offseason. Thomas picked off five passes in 2015, which tied his career high. But as Seattle’s last line of defense, his primary responsibility is to prevent big plays more so than to make them himself. That was an issue for Seattle’s defense last season. The Seahawks allowed 28 completions of 25 yards or more. They had allowed a combined 29 in 2013 and 2014, when they were the best in the league at preventing such plays.

The intrigue: Off the field, Thomas is an interesting individual. He’s a talented musician who can play the saxophone, piano and drums and used to perform with the band at halftime of his high-school games, taking off his helmet and shoulder pads then marching in his football cleats. And with Marshawn Lynch retired, there isn’t a more eccentric personality in Seattle’s locker room than Thomas. He’s a deep thinker who isn’t afraid to share those deep thoughts even in casual conversations about football. He’s so constantly serious and intense that he hardly cracked a smile during the press conference that announced his extension. The man wore a cape and crown to his wedding. On the field, the intrigue with Thomas is that aside from quarterback Russell Wilson, there may not be a more important and irreplaceable player on Seattle’s roster. The Seahawks often employ what’s known as a single-high safety, with Kam Chancellor playing closer to the line of scrimmage and only Thomas patrolling the deeper part of the field. They can do that because of his elite speed and range, which allows him to cover more ground on the back end than most free safeties. Without Thomas, the Seahawks could not play their style of defense, at least not nearly as well. And because he’s been so durable, they’ve never had to find out what it would be like without him.

2016 outlook: In addition to being completely healthy now that he’s further removed from his shoulder surgery, Thomas has something else going for him that he didn’t have last year: a more complete and stable secondary around him. Consider all the issues there last season: Chancellor missed the first two games while holding out, forcing Seattle to begin the season with an inexperienced backup, Dion Bailey, at strong safety. Seattle used three different players nickelback while Jeremy Lane was sidelined for the first 10 games. Cary Williams was such a liability at right cornerback that Seattle released him during the season. How much might Thomas’ play have been impacted by all of those moving parts around him? Whatever the answer, it’s not something he should have to deal with this season as Seattle’s secondary is again intact around him.

Most Intriguing Seahawks: 25, DL Quinton Jefferson; 24, WR Kasen Williams; 23, WR Paul Richardson; 22, G Mark Glowinski; 21, TE Nick Vannett; 20, CB Jeremy Lane; 19, DT Jordan Hill; 18, RB Alex Collins; 17, S Tyvis Powell; 16, G Germain Ifedi; 15, QB Russell Wilson.

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