Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and safety Earl Thomas have practiced against each other for five seasons. Those daily battles have made each of them better.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has faced safety Earl Thomas in practice for five seasons now. But he can still remember one of his early encounters with Thomas as a rookie, in 2012.
“I think I threw a go ball to the left, and Earl was probably on the right hash, and I looked up and next thing I know he was breaking up the play on the left sideline,” Wilson recalled. “I was like, ‘Was that cover two? Did I miss something?’”
Wilson couldn’t believe how quickly Thomas reacted and how much ground he made up. The Seahawks have two vertical red lines painted on their practice fields, six yards in from each sideline.
The Seahawks’ safeties over the years have talked about covering red line to red line, but former Seahawks safety Chris Maragos said Thomas was the only guy who could go sideline to sideline.
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That’s what Wilson experienced that day early in his rookie season, and that’s what he saw when he watched video of the practice later.
“Sure enough, I go watch the film and Earl is just charging as fast as he can to get to that ball,” Wilson said. “He’s got great explosiveness. He’s got great ability. He studies like crazy. He’s the best safety in the league for a reason.”
Wilson and Thomas have had a unique relationship over the years in that their positions are dictated by each other. Wilson is trying to keep Thomas, the free safety deep in the middle of the field, from breaking on the ball. Thomas is trying to read Wilson’s eyes while also not revealing his own intentions.
“Earl will pass by Russ and will say, ‘I saw that. Look one, look two, you ain’t going to get that on me tomorrow,’ said Seahawks receiver coach Dave Caneles. “It’s kind of cool. It keeps them accountable to something they noticed and something to change.”
Thomas has said before that he sees similarities between himself and Wilson. Both are big-play hunters, and both have unique skillsets that allow them to disrupt the other side of the ball. Thomas’ speed and reaction time allows him to take away throws down the middle of the field; Wilson’s scrambling ability can shatter a defense.
That cat-and-mouse game has helped both of them over the years.
“Watching Earl Thomas, like I said, moving sideline to sideline, you have to be on your p’s and q’s and really have your feet in the ground, ready to get rid of the ball,” Wilson said.