What the Seahawks are asking of Steven Terrell is simple. “We need you in the spots that we ask you to be in,” defensive coordinator Kris Richard said this week.

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The shadow of Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas is always lurking, and everyone knows it. Even the player who must replace him.

“It is tough shoes to fill,” safety Steven Terrell said. “You can’t really fill those shoes.”

But someone has to, and the Seahawks are counting on Terrell to hold the position for the rest of the season, playoffs included. It is a difficult spot to be in.

Thomas is one of the best and most confident safeties in the NFL, a rare mix of elite talent and elite instincts. He often operates outside the structure of the defense because he draws on those instincts and his experience to break the rules and make plays.

“He just has that instinctive feel,” Terrell said. “He can take chances that I can’t because his knowledge of the game. He’s been doing it more. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there. I feel like every game I’m getting a little bit better.”

The Seahawks aren’t expecting Terrell, a 26-year-old undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, to replicate that. It’s why Thomas was so unique and valuable.

“You don’t have to be Earl,” linebacker K.J. Wright said.

What the Seahawks are asking of Terrell is simple. “We need you in the spots that we ask you to be in,” defensive coordinator Kris Richard said this week. The thinking is that the rest of the Seahawks’ defense is good enough and savvy enough to pick up whatever slack remains from Thomas’ absence.

In the Seahawks’ defense, the free safety is responsible for taking away seam routes and post routes — two routes that attack deep down the middle of the field and can result in game-changing plays. Thomas almost completely eliminated those plays over the years.

“Just own your seams and own your posts,” Wright said. “That’s all we ask.”

Those are Terrell’s marching orders: simple in message, harder in execution. He is going to make mistakes, and he made a big one in Thursday’s game against the Rams.

In the first quarter, Rams receiver Mike Thomas blew by Terrell in the middle of the field and should have caught a touchdown. But the ball was under thrown, and Thomas dropped an easy would-be touchdown.

Terrell admitted that he was caught looking at the wrong receiver, which left him exposed to a big play, the kind of inexperienced mistake that happens with young safeties.

“I just had bad eyes,” Terrell said. “Just a bad read. I usually don’t do stuff like that. I was pretty upset at myself for that one.”

The Seahawks have to live with some mistakes as Terrell gains experience. But they also have to hope his mistakes are more minor than a game-altering explosive play.

Terrell has received coaching and encouragement from the older defenders. After Sunday’s loss to Green Bay, cornerback Richard Sherman calmly sat and talked to Terrell for a few minutes in the locker room before they headed for the bus.

“They do a great job of keeping me confident and calm,” Terrell said. “They always tell me, ‘You’re a great player. We trust you. Just let it loose. Just go out there and be you.’ I like the fact that they don’t want me to be Earl. They just want me to be me. They’re OK with me being the best version of me that I can be, and that goes a long way for me.”

But Terrell isn’t naïve. He’s refreshingly self aware of his situation. He understands the plays he can make and the ones he can’t afford not to make. And he also understands the magnitude is only going to get more intense.

“I’m just trying to do the best job I can and eliminating the stupid mistakes like I made tonight,” he said. “It only happened once, but as the games go on, they’re going to get bigger and bigger and bigger. I’ve just got to keep building.”