Tag:Earl Thomas
Posted on: September 28, 2010 2:07 pm

Bills' Spiller, Hawks' Thomas Rookies of the Week

Each Tuesday I'll list two first year players -- one on offense, one from the defense -- as my official NFLDraftScout.com's Rookies of the Week.

Various rookies enjoyed strong performances in Week Three. On offense, it was tough to look past Sam Bradford's first career win (over the Redskins), the continued stellar play of Kansas City tight end Tony Moeaki (who I've listed as a finalist each of the first three weeks!) and Indianapolis receiver Blair White an undrafted free agent who was signed from the practice squad due to injuries and responded with three catches for 27 yards and his first NFL touchdown.

In the end, however, the versatility and explosiveness of Buffalo rookie C.J. Spiller won out.

Spiller, playing behind veterans Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, didn't get many carries. In fact, he only rushed four times (for 29 yards) against the Patriots. The versatility he showed while starring at Clemson, however, was very much on display against New England, however, as he caught three passes for 10 yards and a touchdown and returned a kick 95 yards for another score. Spiller's ability to make impact plays were one of the reasons that the Bills were able to remain surprisingly competitive against New England, which won 38-30.

It wasn't a particularly strong week for rookies on the defensive side of the ball. Two defensive backs I had high hopes for entering the week -- Bucs' safety Cody Grimm and Broncos' cornerback Perrish Cox -- were torched for touchdowns. Sean Weatherspoon led the Falcons with seven tackles, but other highly touted 2010 linebackers Brandon Spikes (one tackle) and Rolando McClain (four tackles) weren't as statistically relevant nor able to make any big plays in close games.

Big plays, however, was exactly what Seattle free safety Earl Thomas made for the Seahawks, Sunday afternoon in a 27-20 win over the favored San Diego Chargers.

Thomas recorded six tackles, but it was his two interceptions over Pro Bowler Phillip Rivers that helped prove the difference in this game. Thomas' second interception came with only seconds left on the clock and the Chargers in position to tie the score. Thomas read the eyes of Rivers, cut in front of receiver Legedu Naanee and swiped the ball, putting a disappointing end (for San Diego, at least) to Rivers' career-high 455 yard passing day.

Posted on: August 7, 2010 3:43 pm

WR Tate, FS Thomas immediate hits in Seattle

With each of their first three picks of the 2010 draft -- OT Russell Okung, FS Earl Thomas and WR Golden Tate -- thought likely to win starting jobs for the Seattle Seahawks, their rookie class could be one of the more critical first-year groups in all of the NFL.

I've attended several OTA and training camp practices at the team's facility since the draft, including today's morning practice.

Considering that he was the last 2010 rookie to sign his contract and the gargantuan shoes he has to fill in taking over for Walter Jones, former No. 6 overall pick Russell Okung is certain to earn plenty of attention this season. So far, Okung has been characterized as "solid, but not spectacular" by those close to the team. He lined up with the second-team unit on Friday, his first practice since signing his deal, but had been moved up to the first-team today.

The more impressive players, thus far, have been Seattle's "other" first round pick, free safety Earl Thomas and second round pick, wide receiver/returner Golden Tate.

Thomas' instincts, quick feet and ball-skills have been on display. Though veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been able to take advantage of the rookie's aggression, at times, Thomas has more than held his own. An interception in the end-zone was one of the best plays I saw during the June OTAs and he's consistently been in good position to make plays in training camp, as well. Considering Seattle's questionable pass rush and the rookie target on his chest, Thomas could be challenged early and often. With Thomas' ball skills and solid play from cornerbacks Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson, the 2010 No. 14 overall pick could enjoy a rookie campaign similar to the stunning breakout campaign that Jairus Byrd had last year with the Buffalo Bills. Byrd tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions last season despite missing a couple games due to a groin injury.

Tate has been characterized to me by Seahawks' staff as having "made at least one big play each day" so far. His strong, compact frame and vision has already made him one to watch for the quick passes that offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates likes and he's shown a burst as a returner, as well.

The impressive leaping ability that characterized many of Tate's best plays for Notre Dame last year was evident this morning when he jumped high to snatch a deep pass downfield thrown by J.P. Losman. Trufant, however, was in perfect position to knock the ball out of Tate's hands as the two came down. Though the pass ultimately was incomplete, Tate's athleticism gives the Seahawks the big-play threat they've lacked since the days of Joey Galloway.

It is always tough to gauge how well rookies will be able to acclimate to the NFL based on their performances in training camp. Still, for a team desperate for an infusion of talent at so many positions, Seattle's "big three" rookies should be among those making an immediate impact in 2010.

Posted on: May 7, 2010 12:19 pm

Draft Rewind -- Podcast predictions come true

I've always found it unfortunate that the only two tangible aspects of draft analysis that I and other draft pundits are measured on is the acccuracy of our mock drafts and player rankings (especially the top 100).

In my opinion, what is very nearly as important as these projections are the information draft analysts spread in the weeks and months previous to the draft.

The final weeks before the draft I am asked to participate in a variety of interviews. Some are podcasts. Most are radio, print or television spots.

Podcasts often result in some of my favorite interviews as we have no set time limit and they are so easy to find and hear (or hear again).

I enjoy listening to some of the pre-draft interviews I've done. For one, I'm always looking to improve my delivery of information. I also find it interesting to see just how accurate my predictions and comments were.

I recently was reminded of a podcast I did with Yahoo.com's Doug Farrar on April 8 -- approximately two weeks prior to the draft. Doug is a long-time friend and a growing force in the sports journalism world. Doug and I (admittedly) are each a bit long-winded, but if you have 45 minutes to devote to some good pre-2010 draft conversation, this is a quality listen...

Among the topics include:

Sam Bradford -- Pros and Cons
Tim Tebow -- my thoughts on where he'll go
Debate over Suh-McCoy and Berry-Thomas as top at their positions
Rising prospects at DT, WR, RB
Small school prospects to keep an eye on
And plenty more...
Posted on: April 17, 2010 10:38 am
Edited on: April 17, 2010 10:40 am

Multiple teams talking trade

Many have speculated that the alteration in the the NFL draft schedule is going to lead to more trades than before.

According to sources throughout the league, the St. Louis Rams (owners of the first pick), Seattle Seahawks (6, 14) Cleveland Browns (7), Denver Broncos (11), Miami Dolphins (12), New England Patriots (22), Philadelphia Eagles (24) and Dallas Cowboys (27) are all actively exploring trade opportunities.

The Cleveland Browns have been one of the more aggressive teams, speaking with the Rams about moving up to get Sam Bradford with the first overall pick, but also exploring dropping down, as well.

The Seahawks would like to add a pick between their second first (14) and their only second rounder (60th overall). Their recent mini camp proved they have significant holes to fill on both sides of the ball.

Denver has wide receiver Dez Bryant and center Maurkice Pouncey high on their board. They will consider Bryant at 11, but if he's off the board, they'd like to drop down a few spots and still get Pouncey.

Miami would like to recoup the second round pick they lost in the trade for Brandon Marshall and feel that the player they're likely to get at No. 12 won't be significantly better than one they might get in the lower teens or twenties. With their need for a playmaking wide receiver filled, look for the Dolphins to add a front seven defender.

The Patriots already own three second round picks, but Bill Belichick believes the second round is where the values lies in this draft.

It has been reported (originally by Sports Illustrated's Peter King) that the Eagles were aggressively looking to move up. I have been able to confirm this, but counter to King's story, which has Philadelphia looking to move up for either Eric Berry or Earl Thomas at safety, I'm told a different player is the Eagles' real target. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain, given the team's need for a thumper inside and the significant drop-off at the position after McClain, would seem a likely candidate.

Dallas is also exploring aggressive trade-up options. Owner Jerry Jones loves Dez Bryant and will consider moving into the late teens should the Oklahoma State receiver fall to that point.

The first round of the 2010 draft is shaping up to be every bit the drama-filled event the NFL had hoped in moving it to primetime Thursday night. 

Posted on: March 31, 2010 2:34 pm

Early results from Texas Pro Day

Many of the big names that I saw at Oklahoma continued their Pro Day trek yesterday to Lufkin, Texas to see Dez Bryant and now are on hand in Austin to watch the Longhorns' draft-eligible prospects. There are 30 teams total present.

All eyes will be on Colt McCoy, though he is still throwing for scouts, according to a source on the scene.

The early winners of the day are safety Earl Thomas, who was clocked in the mid 4.3s and wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who was timed in the mid 4.5s.

Thomas has looked very fluid in drills, according to the source, and is gaining momentum as a candidate to switch to cornerback in the NFL.

Shipley's times are especially important, as he was surprisingly disappointing at the Combine. He had a couple of uncharacteristic drops and was clocked at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Pass rusher Sergio Kindle, a potential first round prospect, elected not to run the 40-yard, but his fluidity in linebacker drills earned rave reviews from scouts on hand. Kindle, 6-3, 249 pounds, also worked out as a defensive lineman.
Posted on: March 19, 2010 1:05 pm

Redskins at No. 4 key to Top Ten

Last year I argued that the Seattle Seahawks were the key to how the top ten would play out.

They had expressed considerable interest in quarterback Mark Sanchez, had a greater need at offensive tackle and employed a general manager in Tim Ruskell who favored safe players like outside linebacker Aaron Curry.

The Seahawks obviously went with Curry with the fourth pick of the draft.

The ramifications of this decision, of course, were that the Browns traded their pick to the Jets, who took Sanchez and the run on offensive linemen continued in the top ten despite Seattle ignoring the position.

This year the Washington Redskins own the fourth pick. They're the team thought likely by league insiders to control what happens early in the first round.

It is possible that the Lions surprise and select OT Russell Okung second overall to protect their young quarterback Matt Stafford, but most in the league believe the three best players in the 2010 draft are Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy -- likely going in that order to the Rams, Lions and Bucs, respectively.

The Redskins have a need for a young quarterback, especially considering that Jason Campbell is a restricted free agent expected to sign a one year deal. The Redskins recently signed former first round pick Rex Grossman, but he too, is only signed through next season. There are some who believe Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen is destined for the Redskins.

Others, however, point to Washington's lack of talent at offensive tackle. The retirement of Chris Samuels opened up a gaping hole at left tackle that veteran Levi Jones struggled to fill last year when Samuels was hurt. Right tackle isn't much better with Stephon Heyer.

Still others have argued that a good Washington defense could carry the team in Mike Shanahan's first year if he were to find more playmakers in the secondary. LaRon Landry hasn't produced as expected to his point and has been outplayed by Chris Horton. Eric Berry, who many believe to the be in conversation with Bradford, Suh and McCoy as the elite players in this draft could be a tempting option.

The shoddy depth and extreme importance of the quarterback position could force Shanahan to grab Clausen. If so, you can expect the next best quarterbacks -- Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, Tony Pike, etc -- to be pushed up the board that much higher.

The same would apply at OT or S should the Redskins go in those directions. There is no denying that along with defensive linemen, offensive tackles and safeties are the strengths of this draft. Three offensive tackles went in the top ten last year. Should Washington select Okung at No. 4, Iowa's Bryan Bulaga and Oklahoma's Trent Williams may not be far behind.

The more intriguing scenario might be if Washington selects Berry. Only twice since 1993 have there been three pure safeties selected in the first round (1998, 2007). This will almost surely occur in 2010 with Berry, Texas' Earl Thomas and USC's Taylor Mays all likely to be drafted in the opening frame. Should Berry go early, however, a run on safeties could result, pushing South Florida's Nate Allen into the mix.

Posted on: March 2, 2010 2:04 pm

Tape, Combine prove Suh, Berry best

With the general consensus being that Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is the top quarterback, Clemson's CJ Spiller is the top running back and Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant is the best wide receiver, there have been relatively few positions in which the talking heads on television can debate who is best.

The favorite two this year have been at defensive tackle and safety, with the debate centering on Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy up front and Eric Berry and Earl Thomas in the defensive backfield. 

While the debates make for good television and talk radio, there shouldn't be one at either position. Suh and Berry, both on film and in workouts, have proven themselves the superior prospects.

I've heard the argument that statistics can be bent in any which way to prove a point. While that may be true, it is also true that when virtually every piece of quantifiable data (tackles, sacks, 40-yard dash times, bench press, etc.) points to one player as the better one, the numbers rarely lie.

Suh is stronger, more instinctive and, perhaps most importantly, plays every snap with passion. Perhaps if McCoy with the same relentlessness as Suh, he'd be as effective. The reality is that throughout his career with the Sooners, however, he did not.

My argument for Berry over Thomas is similar to the one I just posed for Suh over McCoy.

Berry is more physical, faster and, perhaps most importantly, a more reliable open field tackler. As impressive as Thomas' gaudy interceptions were, Thomas has a tendency to duck his head as a tackler. Berry, on the other hand, might be the most reliable open field tackler of this year's safety class. Where I am most impressed with Berry on film is when he unselfishly takes out the feet of the fullback or pulling guard and leaves the easy tackle to his teammates. Big plays made Berry a superstar in the SEC. It was his committment to team defense, however, that made him the best player in the conference.

I expect the debate over these prospects to continue as the draft approaches. But on film and in Combine workouts, the choices are clear: Suh and Berry top the defensive tackle and safety positions for 2010. 
Posted on: February 2, 2010 11:13 am

SEC's Jones and Jones stand out on film

I've been focusing on writing player profiles for in advance of the Combine for NFLDraftScout.com and the upcoming issue of Lindy's NFL Draft Preview. This week I've been working on the safeties and two juniors from the SEC have stood out.

LSU's Chad Jones is an extremely athletic prospect who sources tell me could "shock the world" when he works out. Characterized by some close to the LSU program as the team's best athlete (remember, this team features Trindon Holliday...), scouts feel that he, while a bit unpolished, could ultimately rank as one of the top safeties from this exceptional class. He had became a full-time starter in 2009, but is being characterized by some as big enough to play linebacker and athletic to even see time at cornerback. He's also proven to be quite the pitcher, as this video proves .

His namesake, Georgia's Reshad Jones, is a similarly gifted athlete. An extremely highly touted prep prospect out of the state of Georgia, Jones quickly developed into a standout and unlike his LSU counterpart, leaves having started each of the past three years. Unfortunately, he is most known by some for his missed tackle that led Georgia Tech defeating the Bulldogs two years ago. Since, he's developed into a surer open field tackler and has always demonstrated very good ball skills.

With all of the attention being heaped upon All-Americans Eric Berry, Taylor Mays and Earl Thomas, these two haven't earned the attention from the media that they'll be soon be getting from NFL scouts.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com