Seahawks safety plan for now focuses on Thompson and Hill
RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Throughout its offseason team activities, the Seattle Seahawks appeared to be settled at safety. Bradley McDougald would just continue his role from a year ago stepping in as a full-time starter alongside Earl Thomas.
That was before Thomas decided to take his demands for a new contract to the extreme by holding out, creating an unexpected competition and a bit of chaos in Seattle’s defensive backfield.
With Thomas missing, Seattle’s safeties are a revolving door of combinations trying to find the pairing that makes the most sense ahead of the Sept. 9 opener at Denver. The process of seeing how all those combinations look gets its first true examination next Thursday when the Seahawks open the preseason against Indianapolis.
“These guys, they kind of joined forces in the offseason and kind of as a group, they knew they were up against it and wanted to make sure that they were going to give everything they had and put it all on the line,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Bradley McDougald has done a great job of being the leader in that group and it’s a good, tight group and they’re ready to take on the challenge of getting through camp and getting through all of the learning and the experience that’s necessary here is all part of the process, but their attitude is really strong and they’re really determined to do something with this.”
McDougald is almost certain to claim one of the positions. Which one is the question. He filled in as both free and strong safety last year when injuries sidelined Thomas and Kam Chancellor. McDougald was the starting strong safety after Chancellor was lost for the season in early November to a neck injury.
That doesn’t mean McDougald will be the strong safety. Throughout the first week of training camp, Seattle has rotated its safeties in both positions in an attempt to see how interchangeable the players can be.
“They have the opportunity to show themselves and it’s a lot of competition,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “Great communication, it’s showing up every day. Doing extra work, asking a lot of good questions. But, this is their chance to really step up and show us what they have.”
With McDougald seemingly a cinch to take one of the safety spots, the remaining position appears to be a four-way competition between Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, Maurice Alexander and Mike Tyson. And it’s Thompson and Hill that appear to be getting the most opportunity early on.
It makes sense Seattle would give Thompson and Hill the most reps. The Seahawks invested major draft capital in the pair a year ago, taking Hill in the third round and Thompson in the fourth round. They were allowed to spend last season learning behind Thomas and Chancellor with the idea they could eventually take over for the veteran Seahawks safeties.
The replacement has arrived sooner than expected, accelerated by Thomas’ holdout.
“Earl is a special, special player. At the same time, the guys that are here are working really hard and competing and they have the opportunity to show what they can do,” Norton said.
From a look standpoint, Thompson fits the mold of a free safety and Hill looks more like a strong safety. But each is working at both positions as Seattle often adjusts its safety alignments based off the offensive formation. Neither has the sideline-to-sideline speed of Thomas, but Norton has said Seattle’s scheme won’t change.
“I view it as competing. First game is a little ways to go. I’ve got a lot to improve on,” Thompson said. “I don’t focus on if I’m starting today or not starting today. We all get the same amount of reps so it’s all about competing.”