#5 – Earl Thomas

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

This feels a little low, I know.  As you can probably glean from the rest of this Top 10 list, Earl Thomas at five means that Richard Sherman is somewhere higher than five.  Here’s the deal:  I know if you look across the NFL as a whole, it’s a lot easier to find elite-level cornerbacks than it is to find elite-level safeties.  I’m talking, pretty much, on the level of Earl Thomas.  Those are pretty rare.  It’s, like, him and two other guys, and one of those other guys is Kam Chancellor.

And that’s the thing.  If we were to lose Earl Thomas, we’d still have one of the best safeties in the league, plus the drop-off from Thomas to DeShawn Shead (or whoever beats out DeShawn Shead) isn’t as steep as it would be from Richard Sherman to whoever is right under him (Tharold Simon, probably).  I would think, if Sherman suffers the Madden Curse, they’d keep Maxwell on his side, they’d keep Lane in the Nickel, and they’d bump up Simon to play in Sherman’s spot.  I know everyone likes what Simon has been doing thus far in camp (notwithstanding the ejection in the game against Denver), but he’s as untested as it gets.  At least Shead has played in some meaningful games!

But, enough about why Thomas may or may not be as important as Sherman.  These posts are essentially fluff pieces!  Earl Thomas is outstanding.  He’s the unquestioned leader of the best defense in the NFL.  He’s got more heart and desire to win than anyone I’ve ever seen.  Also, I think he’s still in the process of growing.  He’s going to be the defensive player of the year pretty soon.  And, when all is said and done, he’s going to be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Earl Thomas makes football worth watching.  Like most of you, I was glued to the television last Thursday.  Seahawks football was back!  I generally like the pre-season games, because I like watching all the battles for the back-end of the roster.  But, it kind of hit me at the end, when we were officially losing that football game:  this is kinda dumb.  Yeah, I was into it, and it would’ve been pretty neat to see Terrelle Pryor complete that comeback, but it wasn’t REALLY football.  That game only made me that much more excited for September 4th.  When the games matter.  When we get our starters in there for all four quarters.  When we see a guy like Earl Thomas knock someone’s torso clear off his body!

To be fair, there’s probably a little football hangover.  Just a little!  Let’s face it, the Seahawks won it all.  2013 was the greatest sports year of my life, by far.  It’s all been basking in the afterglow ever since February.  No other football season will ever be as great.  Hell, no other season of ANY sport will ever be as great!  This is the first championship I’ve celebrated in my lifetime.  It feels like it JUST ended, and here we are playing football again.

Also, part of that is due to the Mariners making a run at the playoffs.  They’re truly interesting and truly good for the first time in a decade, and to be honest, I’m more interested in what’s going on there than I am in these meaningless football games in August.

But, I’m sure when September rolls around, I’ll get that hunger back.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the battle for the punt returner job.  So far, apparently Earl Thomas is the leader in the clubhouse.  I can’t think of anyone who’s excited by this prospect.  Yeah, I hear all the arguments:  you can’t live your life in fear of injury; the Seahawks have always used their best players on special teams; Golden Tate was our number one receiver and he was back there for just about every punt return the last couple years.  I get all that, but I still don’t necessarily get it.

Will he get hurt?  If he does, I’m like 95% sure he’ll get hurt while playing defense.  But, still, why take the chance?  Is he far-and-away the best punt returner on this team?  If they say he is, then fine.  But, I just don’t see it.  How much lifetime experience does he have returning kicks?  Yeah, he’s fast, and that’s why he’s in the running, but you can’t tell me that one of our back-end receivers wouldn’t be just as good.  It’s a punt return!  The very best punt returner last year was Tandon Doss, who averaged 15.6 yards per return.  The 12th-best punt returner was Julian Edelman, who averaged 10.7 yards per return.  The absolute worst punt returners (who qualified, with at least 20 returns) still managed 5.6 yards per return.  Golden Tate was one of the better returners out there and he still ended up 9th, with 11.5 yards per return.  The difference between Tate, and the worst guys, is about five yards per return.  Is that really worth exposing Earl Thomas to the added 40-50 hits?

Maybe he doesn’t get so injured that he has to miss games, but I guarantee you that it will slow him down to the point where he’s not as effective as he’d be if he were just playing defense.  Ask anyone who’s played football, they’ll tell you there’s a HUGE difference between getting hit and being the one who hits others.

I like Earl Thomas better when he’s hitting others.  Unless he’s got the football in his hands thanks to an interception.  But, please, let’s come to our senses and find Just Another Guy to go back there and catch punts!

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