I wrote about Earl Thomas in Sunday’s paper, but I had some extra stuff that I thought was pretty interesting from the interviews I did.
- Duane Akina, Texas’ defensive backs coach, said one of the things that most impresses him about Thomas is how quickly he picks up the ball off a quarterback’s hands. During the Atlanta playoff game, Akina said he was in his living room watching and as soon as Matt Ryan let go of the ball, he started yelling that Thomas was going to intercept it. He’d seen him do it too many times before. “That’s always been a big thing in my evaluation,” Akina said. “When the ball leaves the quarterback’s hand, when can the middle safety pick up the angle? The real good ones can pick it up when it’s still elevating… There’s no wasted steps. Along with his speed, he’s really got a chance to cover a lot of ground.”
- About Pro Football Focus rating him the 34th-best safety in the league, Akina said, “I would argue that there’s not one NFL coach who if you said, ‘You can grab Earl Thomas’ wouldn’t jump on the table to get him. Nobody would say there’s 33 other guys I want first. I’ll go that far.”
- Winston Guy, a backup strong safety, told this story: “We had a nice talk in the DB room about LOB, and he specifically said the Legion of Boom is not just him, BB, Kam and Sherm, it’s everybody. Everybody brings their own versatility and attributes to the team. Everybody respects him, man. You don’t got no choice but to respect him.”
- NFL Network’s Charles Davis used this description when talking about Thomas: He just doesn’t look like the standard package. But everything else he has. He’s the quintessential guy, but when you roll him out in the room and don’t tell anyone, they’re not going to say, ‘That’s your free safety.’” Reminded me of the way people talk about Russell Wilson when I heard it.
- Kam Chancellor said Thomas never really stops talking about football. “The past few years he was still in the learning process. But this offseason you could see the focus was different. A whole lot different. He understands ball waaaay more. Now he’s just seeing routes, calling them out and making a lot of plays at practice. The work from the classroom is showing out here on the field.”
- So did Brandon Browner: “He loves the game. If he’s not studying the game, he’s talking about the game. And if he’s not talking about the game, he’s playing a video game of himself. It’s always about football. Watching Earl makes you want to give it your all.”
- Football has always meant a lot to Thomas, said his high school coach, Dan Hooks: “He was very aware of what was going on during the game. A lot of these kids don’t know what down it is. But he knew everything about it. If it was third and six, he’d give you five but not six. And that’s just the way he played. You don’t find that in a high school kid.”
- Thomas also talked about how baseball helped him read the ball off the quarterbacks hands. Thomas played a lot of baseball growing up and of course played centerfield. If you saw him in Richard Sherman’s celebrity softball game in July, you could see how much ground he covered out there. “I played a lot of baseball, select baseball in the summer. When I played centerfield, seeing that little small baseball off the bat really helped me with the big football. And the quarterback always tells you where he wants to throw the ball. I just read the quarterback and go from there.”