When we first learned that Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was considering using free safety Earl Thomas at punt returner a few months ago, I came out steadfast against the idea. Thomas is far too valuable to the defense to risk his getting hurt on a return; moreso than any other player on the roster, Thomas is completely irreplaceable.
Patrolling the deep middle of the field, Thomas serves as the anchor of the Seahawks’ league-best defense. Whenever a tackle is blown or a coverage is missed Thomas is the one who is responsible for cleaning the mess up, and he does it as well as any safety in the NFL.
Seattle does need to find a replacement for Golden Tate at punt returner but I don’t believe Thomas is the answer. So far this preseason I have been proven right.
Thomas has returned two kicks for a grand total of five yards. It’s still early but it’s clear to me that it’s just not working. I’m not the only one that’s not a fan of the idea, either. A couple of days ago strong safety Kam Chancellor told ESPN 710 it’s not worth the risk:
“I don’t even want him out there… That’s my brother, so I can say whatever I want to say. If he’s not beside me on defense, I don’t want him out there… A guy like him, he’s a competitor, so I know he’s going to want to catch everything and run everything. I don’t want to see anything bad happen.”
Lmao Kam Chancellor's size compared to receivers on his team….. Kam Chancellor is a problem & a man amongst boys pic.twitter.com/DSESRDtkDI
— Aldo The Apache (@REAL_NickSmutz) August 19, 2014
Then yesterday wide receiver Doug Baldwin added his voice to the growing chorus of dissent, telling Bob and Groz:
“As much as I love Earl, he doesn’t need to be back there,” Baldwin joked. “He’s awful at it and Sherm is even worse… I get the sentiment about that, that they’re worried about Sherm or Earl getting hurt because they’re tops at their position… That punt return rep is going to be crucial to us somewhere along the line and we need the best guy back there as well as the best guys up there blocking for them.”
We know that Thomas is perhaps the most fierce competitor that the Seahawks have and he won’t give up the position lightly. However, I think the team is best served to admit that it was not the best idea they’ve ever had and give someone else a chance.
But who should it be?