Thoughts on Earl Thomas, the cornerback position and the starting defense from Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard.
Here are three takeaways from Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard when he met the media following practice on Tuesday:
1, Earl Thomas is flying around like the Earl Thomas of old.
A day after coach Pete Carroll said of Thomas that “he looks great. …he’s ready to go” Richard — who has coached Thomas in one form or another since the day Thomas arrived in 2010 — echoed those thoughts.
“It’s a revived Earl Thomas,” Richard said. “It’s not as if he’s ever taken this game for granted, but, you could just see a guy relieved to be back out there, playing football again, doing what he loves to do.”
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That’s about the best news possible for Seahawks fans given all that Thomas means to the team, which became evident with the defensive collapse of the end of last season once he went out with a broken leg against Carolina.
Thomas will get the truest test possible of where he really is going up against Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field to start the season on Sept. 10.
2, Jeremy Lane appears to still lead the race for the right cornerback spot.
Richard didn’t flat out say Lane is still holding the right cornerback spot where rookie Shaquill Griffin has also been battling all of training camp.
But in an answer about the experience in the back end of the defense he said “We have veterans now and guys who have been playing here for years. All four of our starters, right now, have been playing here since 2012.”
So you could easily take that as Richard saying that Lane is still one of the four starters in the base defense along with Richard Sherman, Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
Of course this has all been a little bit of semantics all along. Lane also remains the starter at nickelback, which means Griffin comes in for the nickel with Lane shifting inside, a defense the Seahawks will likely play 70 percent of the time or so this season.
When asked specifically on Tuesday about the Lane-Griffin battle here’s what Richard said: “Yeah, it’s been really cool to watch, in particular, Shaq grow. Obviously Jeremy has missed a little bit of time with some injuries. But, Jeremy is Jeremy. He’s doing a fantastic job and he’s a tough cover. He’s going to make it hard on opponents to catch the football. Obviously, again, we put him inside the slot and he knows exactly what’s necessary in order to get the job done. Shaq has grown by leaps and bounds. He’s done a really good job for us. First and foremost, he’s been superb on the deep ball. He has not allowed one to be caught on him in the game. Obviously, again, the work in progress is there. I love his poise. He has an awesome nature about him, a humble nature about him to where he’s not shook out there. I think the Minnesota game was a real good game for him, they came after him early. He stood up, he stood up to the challenge. They threw some snap routes on him, try to throw some deep balls on him and then came back and tried to challenge him again a little later in the game and he stood up and got some PBUs (pass breakups). It’s been really good to watch him.”
3, The No. 1 defense has gotten steadily better as the preseason has gone on.
If you wanted you could maybe be a little concerned that Seattle’s No. 1 defense has given up a scoring drive on the opening possession of each of the first three games, all on drives of 11 plays or longer — a touchdown against the Chargers and field goals against the Vikings and Chiefs.
But Richard notes that the Seattle defense at least played its usual no-big-plays-allowed style — something it lost when Thomas was out last season — and that it settled down in each of the Minnesota and Kansas City games to allow not much else the rest of the way.
Seattle’s starters played into the second quarter against Minnesota and forced punts on the two series it played after the Vikings drove for a field goal.
Seattle’s starters then played the first half against the Chiefs and held Kansas City to a punt and a missed field goal — and just 57 yards on 16 plays — after the scoring drive.
So the upshot is one touchdown, two field goals, one missed field goal and three punts on the seven possessions on which the Seattle defense has consisted of mostly its starters.
Said Richard of what he has seen of the starting defense: “We’ve seen the effort, the enthusiasm, the energy that’s necessary. The execution has gotten much better. Obviously, again, the level of communication and things of that nature, the things that you typically take for granted that may be missed in the OTA phases and early on in camps and things like that. That’s where you really look for the improvement. It’s right in there. Obviously, again, bending and not breaking, really play well, not allowing teams to score touchdowns, that’s always first and foremost. And again, an escalation in the level of execution. Start it off early on, a few third downs, missed opportunities here and there and then later on, you start to see the improvement.”