Earl Thomas Injury: Will Seahawks Be the Same Without Star Safety?
The NFL playoff picture is starting to clear up, as the Seattle Seahawks specifically took another step toward wrapping up the NFC West, by moving to 8-3-1 in a blowout win over the Carolina Panthers.
That may end up being enough to get them the division title and a trip back to the playoffs, but it also may have come at a cost.
Per reports, star Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is set to miss the remainder of the 2016 NFL season after suffering a broken leg on Sunday Night Football:
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 5, 2016
Thomas was reportedly carted off with a broken tibia during the game and is expected to be placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Thomas is a massive loss for Seattle’s Legion of Boom, which prides itself on a balanced, stifling defense. Thomas had played a huge role in Seattle’s defensive success, operating as an elite last resort in coverage and a solid presence against the run, as well. In addition, Thomas lends a ball hawk demeanor against the pass, having picked off two passes already in 2016 and notching 21 career interceptions coming into the season.
The loss of Thomas could potentially cripple Seattle’s stout defense, as they don’t have a high level replacement that can do what he does. Thomas has been an elite do-it-all safety for his entire career and his injury leaves a serious hole in Seattle’s secondary.
Not only will the Seahawks miss his ability to make plays on the ball, but hard-hitting safety Kam Chancellor’s suspect coverage ability could be more exposed. Richard Sherman, as strong as a cover corner as he is, could also have a more difficult time to contain big plays without a proven stopper behind him at safety.
Overall, Seattle still figures to boast a strong defense. They still have Sherman and Chancellor to lead their pass defense and they also are stacked at linebacker and the defensive line. Thomas was a fiery team leader who excelled in about every area, however, and there simply isn’t a replacement plan to make up for his skill-set or intangibles.
It’s also fair to wonder if this big loss extends past the 2016 season. Earl Thomas, clearly emotional after the injury, took to Twitter to express frustration and suggested retirement isn’t out of the question:
This game has been so good to me no regrets.. A lot is running through my mind including retirement thanks for all the prayers.
— Earl Thomas (@Earl_Thomas) December 5, 2016
It would be shocking to see a 27-year old at the top of his game to walk away, but Thomas has already won a title and could have easily gone into 2016 knowing it would be his last. Given the injuries that pile up for players, the developing trend has been players retiring at or before the age of 30.
It’s likely Earl Thomas was simply emotional about the moment and he could decide to return in 2017 and beyond.
As for the Seahawks, they will march forward with Steven Terrell in the place of the injured Thomas. It’s unclear what Terrell brings to the table as a weekly starter, as he’s made just one start in his career.
Betting on Seahawks
There is still a remote chance Earl Thomas returns at some point this year. The Seahawks are in a good spot with a firm lead in the NFC West, and it would take quite the collapse for them to give way to the 5-6-1 Arizona Cardinals.
Their defense will probably take a hit with Thomas out, but if they have serious Super Bowl aspirations, they might want to hit the pause button on sending their star safety to injured reserve.
Thomas has been listed as being out “indefinitely”, but a broken leg can potentially heal by the time the Seahawks make it to Super Bowl 51 – if they make it. And of course, even if that’s the case, there is still no guarantee Thomas is ready. There is also no guarantee Seattle won’t need that roster spot.
The odds don’t look great for Earl Thomas to play again this season, but it remains undetermined as to what the Seahawks will do with his roster spot.
What is clear, however, is that not having Thomas for the rest of the year could be a serious back-breaker. Thomas is arguably the heart and soul of Seattle’s defense and is a major safety valve and play-maker that simply can’t be replaced.
We’ll find out right away in week 14 if Seattle can figure something out, as they’ll be taking on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
As of now, Seattle still boasts the third best Super Bowl odds, but odds will be updated soon and it’s possible they could take a dip thanks to the Earl Thomas injury. That could offer a little more upside in a Seahawks pick, but Earl Thomas going down also makes them a little risky, as well. Needless to say, the NFC just opened up a little more, with the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons getting a boost as far as Super Bowl odds, in theory.
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