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Questions with the enemy #5 - discussing the Earl Thomas injury with Field Gulls

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A writer from Seattle’s SB Nation site discusses the injury to safety Earl Thomas ahead of Sunday’s game between the Redskins and Seattle

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

I had a chance to ask Kenneth Arthur, managing editor of the Field Gulls fan blog, five questions about his favorite team, Seattle, whom the Redskins will face off against at 4:05 p.m. on Sunday. This is the last of the five questions & answers.

I answered five questions asked by Kenneth, and my answers to his questions are posted on Field Gulls.

It’s easy, as a Redskins fan to feel like the ‘Skins are struggling with injuries in a way that puts the team at a huge disadvantage, but — as we saw in yesterdays discussion of Seattle’s offense — they are dealing with serious injury issues along their offensive line not dissimilar to the Redskins, and today Ken will explain the very real impact on the Seattle defense of the injury Earl Thomas suffered last Sunday against the Texans. Seattle, like Washington, is struggling with injury issues that are significant.

5. I’m reading that Earl Thomas is ‘not likely’ to play against the Redskins this week. Can you explain what impact that should have on the game?

Yeah, Thomas is dealing with a hamstring issue, a problem that caused him to miss his first career game last season, two weeks before he returned, then broke his leg.

Thomas had a pick-six on Sunday against the Texans and — despite allowing a touchdown earlier in that same game — was having one of the best years of his Hall of Fame career. The impact Earl Thomas has on the game is immense and that can't be overstated.

From 2012-2015, the Seahawks led the NFL in scoring defense in each of those years, and they were on their way to doing it again last season before Thomas broke his leg. Their pass defense went from being a top-5 unit to a bottom-10 group in the six or so games without him.

A major part of that downfall is the fact that his backup Steven Terrell is just not an NFL-starting caliber player.

We didn’t really know that before the injury because Terrell spent a couple years on the bench behind Earl, as one is expected to do. The reason there had been hope for Terrell revolved around the fact that he was being coached by Carroll — maybe the greatest DB coach ever — and that Terrell had speed like Thomas'. He might even be a touch faster.

But it turns out that Terrell knows not what to do with that speed and that Thomas — surprise, surprise — has a Hall of Fame level football IQ.

Thomas is a freak in so many ways that not having him is a concern.

And while I hear a lot of Seahawks fans express a weird sense of comfort this week because "Kirk Cousins has no offensive line," I just don't get that. I mean, I understand that Washington is having significant issues with the line and protection problems because of injuries, but Seattle doesn't create a ton of pressure on the QB ,and not having an elite free safety absolutely has to have a negative effect.

The backup safety situation now turns from Terrell to Bradley McDougald. The Seahawks signed McDougald to a one-year deal after four years with the Bucs and teased him all offseason as a guy who would be a playmaker in the rotation and an upgrade at the backup safety spots.

He has played a ton on special teams but not really taken part in the safety rotation on defense, so I’m not sure what that means. really. Maybe nothing; after all, the Seahawks are doing fine on defense without him.

But now he's being tested in that other tease: Can he successfully backup an All-Pro free safety?

McDougald played in the final two series last week with Thomas out nursing his hamstring, and the Seahawks did make the key stop they needed (in run defense) to get the ball back for Wilson's game-winning touchdown to Graham.

I expect it to be an issue for Seattle if Thomas is out, but hopefully not a major one. We can't really say for certain since it would be McDougald's first start here, but at least we have a lot more knowledge and tape on what McDougald can do as opposed to Terrell, and he does have 36 career starts, though those starts were not enough to secure him a starting job or a multi-year deal anywhere.

We're about to find out just what it means.

Poll

Which potential game absence would affect the player’s team more?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    The loss of Earl Thomas would be more significant to Seattle’s defense
    (100 votes)
  • 37%
    The loss of Trent Williams would be more significant to the Redskins offense
    (61 votes)
161 votes total Vote Now