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July 18, 2013 at 2:45 PM

Countdown to Training Camp: 15 Questions in 15 Days — Just how good is Earl Thomas, anyway?

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We’re past the halfway point of our countdown, and today’s entry will touch on another issue that found its way into a debate on social media today — just how good is Earl Thomas, anyway?

By many standards, he’s among the elite safeties in the game, voted a starter in the Pro Bowl  in 2012 — the first Seahawk so honored since 2008 and the first Seattle safety since Darryl Williams in 1997.

But the web site Pro Football Focus, in its breakdown of the Seahawks published today, cast slightly different verdict, calling pegging Thomas in its category of “above average,” below the “elite” and “high qualify” categories (the site also separately rated Thomas as just the 34th best safety in the NFL last season).

The author acknowledged that the categorization would raise some eyebrows, writing:

“I know the player’s grade who will get everyone excited is Thomas. The truth is, though, we think — while he’s a decent enough player — bracketing him with the likes of (San Diego’s Eric) Weddle, (Buffalo’s Jairus) Byrd etc. is a long stretch. When I think of the position safety the first word that comes to mind is “safe” and missing 20 of 81 tackles (inc. playoffs) doesn’t give me a feeling of comfort.”

NFL.com’s Chris Wesserling, however, picked up on a Pete Carroll quote from June in which the coach called Thomas “as good as any of the (safeties) I’ve ever coached” in an item published on that web site today.

He also included this assessment from NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell, who noted that Thomas’ value in protecting Seattle’s back end isn’t something that can be accurately measured in mere stats.

“NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell has called Thomas the league’s best coverage safety and arguably the most complete safety in the NFL. Thomas is one of the few safeties capable of patrolling the back end of the defense, timing blitzes well and making plays in the run game. He’s the fulcrum on which Carroll’s physical press-man defense rests.”

Obviously, what ultimately decides the value of a player is his contribution to wins and losses. In football, that’s a lot harder to determine than in baseball or basketball, where players can be much more easily compared in an apples-to-apples manner.

In Thomas’ case, though,  what may be the two most meaningful numbers — points allowed and won-loss record — spoke loudly last season. Seattle allowed the fewest points in the NFL at 15.3 per game and finished 11-1. Thomas’ supporters could argue that whatever tackles he did miss didn’t end up hurting the overall effort all that much.

A run to the Super Bowl this season would speak at Metallica volumes about Thomas’ value.

Thomas also has as much motivation as is imaginable to prove himself an elite safety this season. Not only is he critical to Seattle’s hopes, but he also is due for a new contract after this season, which he seemed to allude to on Twitter earlier this week.

Previous 15 Questions in 15 Days:

July 17: Countdown to Training Camp: 15 questions in 15 days — How many carries will Percy Harvin get this season?

July 16: Countdown to Training Camp: 15 questions in 15 days — Will the schedule get in the way of the Seahawks’ great expectations?

July 15: Countdown to Training Camp: 15 questions in 15 days — How many yards will Russell Wilson pass for?

July 14: Countdown to Training Camp: 15 questions in 15 days — How much will Antoine Winfield play?

July 13: Countdown to Training Camp: 15 questions in 15 days — Who starts at right guard?

July 12: Countdown to Training Camp: 15 questions in 15 days — Will the Seahawks have enough depth at tight end?

July 11: Countdown to Training Camp: 15 questions in 15 days — Who will win the backup quarterback job?

July 10: Countdown to camp — 15 days, 15 questions: So what is Bruce Irvin’s position, anyway?

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