How to stop Earl Thomas

Double moves and red zone targeting are best ways to attack Seattle safety

Originally Published: July 8, 2013
By Matt Bowen | Special to ESPN Insider

I love watching tape of the Seattle Seahawks' secondary. They are a physical, aggressive unit that has size, speed and plays with a swagger. That's exactly what I would look for as a coach (or as a talent evaluator) when putting together a core unit that can control the back end of the defense.

The production of this Seahawks secondary begins with the play of Earl Thomas -- one of the top players at the free safety position. He is the "angel" in the middle of the field who allows Pete Carroll's defense to lean on press-man and physicality at the line of scrimmage.

Over the past month, I have examined a game plan to slow down some of the elite players in the league including Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Robert Griffin III and DeMarcus Ware.

Today, it's time to come up with a script to target Thomas -- and that won't be easy.

Let's take a look at Thomas' skill set and break down three route schemes to set some bait for the young safety.

What makes Thomas unique?

Here are four key aspects that stand out in Thomas' overall game.

Range: If you are going to play any single-high safety defense (Cover 1, Cover 3, zone/man pressure), then your free safety has to display enough range to protect the top of the route tree. Thomas has the ability to read the quarterback (eyes, shoulders in the pocket), create an angle to the ball and come out of his deep middle-of-the-field alignment to get outside of the numbers on the deep 9 (fade) route.

Matt Bowen

Special to ESPN Insider
Former NFL safety Matt Bowen is a veteran of four teams over seven seasons, and now provides analysis for a number of media outlets.