Seattle Looking for Big Plays from Safety Earl Thomas
Tim Booth AP Sports Writer
September 04, 2010
RENTON, Wash. (AP) -- In full pads, it took Seattle rookie safety Earl Thomas less than 10 seconds to take an interception back 86 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota last week.
And that included some Deion Sanders-esque high-stepping the last couple of yards.
Maybe those claims of Thomas coming out of Texas with 4.3-second 40-yard speed weren't so outlandish.
``I never had that speed at all,'' Seattle veteran safety Lawyer Milloy said. ``That's something you can't coach. He's definitely blessed with some legs.''
The Seahawks are hoping Thomas' return against the Vikings is a sign of a defense able to create more big plays after just giving them up a year ago and ranking 22nd in the NFL in interceptions.
For Thomas, it was another step in his education this preseason of adjusting to the expectations of being a starting safety in the NFL at just 21 years old.
``I came a long way from the first game and even from the first practice,'' Thomas said. ``I think I get better every time I get on the field and just from learning the mistakes I had previously and getting them corrected.''
The Seahawks never left any doubt about their intent of making Thomas their starting safety from the beginning. Even with just two years of college experience, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider felt comfortable enough with Thomas' skills that he has run with the No. 1 defense from the first post-draft minicamp.
That's not to say there aren't moments of frustration or plenty of mistakes.
During Seattle's second preseason game against Green Bay, Thomas and Milloy were engaged in an animated conversation on the sideline after a blown coverage left Jermichael Finley wide open for a touchdown _ after Seattle had called a time out. He also got beat on the first play of the game, a perfectly thrown deep ball from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings for 56 yards
``We still have some work to do. He definitely needed last week. It simplified it for him, take some of the elements away from him and have him concentrate on just football, his preparation, and the ball will come to you,'' Milloy said. ``He did that and we saw what happened. It's a process with him.''
Making impact plays is what Thomas did at Texas. In just two seasons Thomas had 10 interceptions, ranking 11th on the Longhorns all-time list. Eight of those came last year when Thomas led the nation in interceptions and was a first-team all-American by The Associated Press and seemingly every other publication.
Part of the reason for his knack for the ball is that Thomas started his career at cornerback. After playing a myriad of positions in high school, Thomas was undersized when he arrived in Austin and started his Texas career as a 180-pound cornerback. Even as he grew, Thomas was about to begin his redshirt freshman season as a cornerback until a last-minute switch to safety.
Still, he started as a backup.
``But when I got out there I started making a bunch of plays,'' Thomas said.
Just like last week against Minnesota. Before grabbing a deflection off the hands of Bernard Berrian and racing for his score, Thomas almost had another pick when a deflected pass fell in and out of his hands. He also showed that even at just 200 pounds, Thomas can bring some force, flattening Vikings receiver Percy Harvin.
Now comes Thursday night in Oakland and the final rehearsal for Milloy and Thomas before the regular season begins.
``Me and Lawyer have a great relationship. He took me under his wing,'' Thomas said. ``I sit by him in every meeting we have and we're always going over stuff we messed up in the previous game, previous practice. He's helped me out a lot.''