Seattle looking for big plays from Thomas

In full pads, it took Seattle rookie safety Earl Thomas less

than 10 seconds to take an interception back 86 yards for a

touchdown against Minnesota last week.

And that included some Deion Sanders-esque high-stepping the

last couple of yards.

Maybe those claims of Thomas coming out of Texas with 4.3-second

40-yard speed weren’t so outlandish.

”I never had that speed at all,” Seattle veteran safety Lawyer

Milloy said. ”That’s something you can’t coach. He’s definitely

blessed with some legs.”

The Seahawks are hoping Thomas’ return against the Vikings is a

sign of a defense able to create more big plays after just giving

them up a year ago and ranking 22nd in the NFL in

interceptions.

For Thomas, it was another step in his education this preseason

of adjusting to the expectations of being a starting safety in the

NFL at just 21 years old.

”I came a long way from the first game and even from the first

practice,” Thomas said. ”I think I get better every time I get on

the field and just from learning the mistakes I had previously and

getting them corrected.”

The Seahawks never left any doubt about their intent of making

Thomas their starting safety from the beginning. Even with just two

years of college experience, head coach Pete Carroll and general

manager John Schneider felt comfortable enough with Thomas’ skills

that he has run with the No. 1 defense from the first post-draft

minicamp.

That’s not to say there aren’t moments of frustration or plenty

of mistakes.

During Seattle’s second preseason game against Green Bay, Thomas

and Milloy were engaged in an animated conversation on the sideline

after a blown coverage left Jermichael Finley wide open for a

touchdown – after Seattle had called a time out. He also got beat

on the first play of the game, a perfectly thrown deep ball from

Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings for 56 yards

”We still have some work to do. He definitely needed last week.

It simplified it for him, take some of the elements away from him

and have him concentrate on just football, his preparation, and the

ball will come to you,” Milloy said. ”He did that and we saw what

happened. It’s a process with him.”

Making impact plays is what Thomas did at Texas. In just two

seasons Thomas had 10 interceptions, ranking 11th on the Longhorns

all-time list. Eight of those came last year when Thomas led the

nation in interceptions and was a first-team all-American by The

Associated Press and seemingly every other publication.

Part of the reason for his knack for the ball is that Thomas

started his career at cornerback. After playing a myriad of

positions in high school, Thomas was undersized when he arrived in

Austin and started his Texas career as a 180-pound cornerback. Even

as he grew, Thomas was about to begin his redshirt freshman season

as a cornerback until a last-minute switch to safety.

Still, he started as a backup.

”But when I got out there I started making a bunch of plays,”

Thomas said.

Just like last week against Minnesota. Before grabbing a

deflection off the hands of Bernard Berrian and racing for his

score, Thomas almost had another pick when a deflected pass fell in

and out of his hands. He also showed that even at just 200 pounds,

Thomas can bring some force, flattening Vikings receiver Percy

Harvin.

Now comes Thursday night in Oakland and the final rehearsal for

Milloy and Thomas before the regular season begins.

”Me and Lawyer have a great relationship. He took me under his

wing,” Thomas said. ”I sit by him in every meeting we have and

we’re always going over stuff we messed up in the previous game,

previous practice. He’s helped me out a lot.”