No one sets higher standards for Earl Thomas than the Seahawks’ fourth-year free safety. And because no one has played any better during the best start in franchise history, Thomas is the choice as first-half MVP.
Earl Thomas has not missed a game since the Seahawks made him the 14th pick overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. But as Thomas has repeatedly pointed out, there always seemed to be something missing from his game.
As a rookie, the free safety who is as fiercely competitive as he is fast had five interceptions, but “only” 71 tackles. In 2011, when he was voted to his first Pro Bowl, his tackles were up (92) but his interceptions were down (two). Last season, when he added All-Pro honors to another Pro Bowl selection, Thomas still didn’t feel he had enough of either – three interceptions and 61 tackles.
But this season, we’re seeing the completeness of Thomas’ game as he has taken that game to a completely different level. He shares the NFL lead with four interceptions and leads the league’s No. 2-ranked defense with 57 tackles, including 52 solo stops.
But his contributions go much deeper than even those impressive statistics. Thomas also is the hornet that puts the sting in the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” secondary, and therefore the entire defense.
“Ya got that right,” All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said with a smile and then a laugh in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “Earl’s always in there stirring things up – during games, on the practice field, in our (meeting) room and in here.”
That’s why Thomas is the obvious selection as the best player during the best start in franchise history. In addition to being the first-half MVP for the Seahawks, the case also could be made that Thomas is the NFL Defensive Player of the Year at the midway point of his fourth season. The other players in the league with as many interceptions as Thomas don’t have as many tackles, and those with more tackles don’t have as many interceptions.
“Earl Thomas plays everywhere. He plays deep. He plays shallow. Sometimes he starts deep and he steals something shallow. Just a great football player,” Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens said before Monday night’s game, when Thomas had 10 solo tackles while making plays everywhere.
Thomas hasn’t just changed as a player on the field. He also has changed as a person. His teammates and coaches point to his increased maturity, which has amped the confidence in his skills and what they allow him to do on any given day and any given play.
“You can see Earl transitioning into a truly mature player – man and player – to where it’s like winning and losing doesn’t even matter anymore, because it doesn’t define him,” said Kris Richard, who played cornerback for the Seahawks (2002-04) and now coaches the defensive backs.
“He’s getting better, and he’s going to continue to get better because he cares.”
After one game this season, when it appeared Thomas had done everything possible to help the Seahawks win, he deflected praise in the locker room by offering, “You haven’t seen the video. I messed up a couple of things and I’ve got to work to correct that. I’ve got to get my game right.”
Told of that, Richard smiled and offered, “That’s where he’s awesome. Like I said, it wasn’t about the results, it’s about the performance. Your sole goal is to go out there and be your best and do your best, and you know when you’re doing it and when you’re not. Regardless of the outcome.