Early in training camp, the Seahawks changed their starting safety duo on nearly a daily basis. While Bradley McDougald was the constant, his flexibility to play both positions allowed Seattle to look at different combinations, and one day it would be McDougald at strong safety with Tedric Thompson playing free safety, then the next day it might be McDougald at free with Delano Hill at strong, or McDougald at free and Maurice Alexander at strong.
But lately, particularly with Alexander currently sidelined, there has been some stability on the back end of Seattle’s defense, with Thompson now the regular No. 1 option at free safety and McDougald at strong. It’s early still, and a lot can change between now and the start of the season—including the status of yet-to-report free safety Earl Thomas—but for now at least, the second-year safety out of Colorado is trying to take advantage of his chance to shine as the likely starter at free safety in Seattle’s preseason opener against Indianapolis.
“I feel like it’s a big opportunity for everybody,” Thompson said. “Coming into a new season, new guys in the backfield. I feel like it’s an opportunity for everybody, just looking forward to it.”
Few players in camp have received more praise, both from teammates and coaches, than Thompson, the 2017 fourth-round pick known as T2 who played sparingly on defense as a rookie but saw significant playing time on special teams. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has been pushing Thompson to cut loose and not hold back so he and his coaches can determine what he is capable of as an NFL safety.
“I want him to feel comfortable and supported,” Carroll said. “We believe that the guy is a really good player and we just want him to let it go and cut it loose, and not hold back playing cautious or anything. I think he’s got a lot of plays in him, which he’s shown and he’s given us the confidence to support him in that manner. I don’t want him to be inhibited, try to work his way in or that kind of thing. Let’s go. I’ve got confidence that he’s going to do all right.”
The Seahawks drafted Thompson in no small part because of his playmaking ability—in his final year at Colorado he recorded seven interceptions and a FBS-best 23 passes defensed—and he has shown that on nearly a daily basis in practice by being around the ball on passing plays. The 6-foot, 204-pounder has also looked quick and decisive coming up to stop the run.
Asked what leads to those playmaking skills, Thompson said, “I think it’s everything. I think the more you know your playbook and you know where your help's at, and you know where your help is not at, you know what leverage to play. You start watching and breaking down the offense, so you’re able to make certain plays.”
And like most second-year players, Thompson feels a lot more comfortable in his second training camp than he did as a rookie, and it continues to show in his play.
“I feel more comfortable,” he said. “I know the defense a lot more, I was in the playbook in the offseason, so I feel a lot more comfortable.
“I feel a lot more prepared, because I know the defense a lot better now. Last year, I was learning it day by day. Whenever we came back, I already knew the whole defense, I knew a lot wasn’t going to change just talking to the vets with (defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.) coming, so I feel comfortable.”
It’s early still, but that level of comfort, combined with his natural abilities, has turned Thompson into a must-watch player this preseason.
“He has this natural ability to find the ball,” Norton said. “It’s about the speed and what you combine it with—your smarts, your natural ability, with your ability to read plays and diagnose them really fast. So, it’s the combination of all the different talents he’s able to use.”
2018 Seahawks Training Camp: Day 10
Photos from Day 10 of 2018 Seahawks training camp at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.