The Seahawks may have won their season opener against the Bengals last Sunday, but the notion “winning cures everything” hasn’t necessarily applied to safety Tedric Thompson this week.
The third-year safety has been under fire after a horrific misplay on a 55-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to John Ross to close out the first half of Sunday’s contest. Thompson looked to be in position to make an interception, but he mistimed his jump and the ball sailed over his outstretched arms, landing in Ross’s hands as he raced to the end zone.
Instead of entering halftime up 10-7, Seattle trailed 14-10 at the break. Though coach Pete Carroll’s squad righted the ship and squeaked out the victory in the second half, reporters have continued to inquire about a potential change at the free safety position only two weeks into the regular season.
Clearly irked during his press conference on Monday, Carroll responded, “No. We’re playing ball. We’re not talking about that, seriously.”
Carroll, also known as Positive Pete in many circles, rarely displays frustration publicly. That’s not his style. But he’s understandably been irritated by the constant criticism of Thompson, who still has just 11 NFL starts under his belt and stepped into a difficult situation as the replacement for Earl Thomas.
The Seahawks know Thompson isn’t the second coming of Thomas, a generational safety possessing rare range and instincts from center field. He’s not going to evolve into a perennial All Pro and his ceiling may not even include Pro Bowl potential.
After sitting out Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring injury, there’s also a chance Lano Hill or rookie Marquise Blair will get some snaps against the Steelers next weekend at his expense.
But Carroll still believes the 24-year old Thompson can become a quality starter and he’s seen glimpses of what he’s capable of on the practice field over the past couple of years. He just hasn’t been able to finish on game day, whether it’s in making a play on the football or tackling in space, and that continued to be evident against Cincinnati.
“He was just selling out all the hits trying to make big hits when maybe it wasn’t the right opportunity, just trying to go for it. Which we appreciate, but we’ve got to clean up because we have to be more precise.”
Aside from his monumental gaffe to close out the first half, Thompson played a fairly clean game in coverage. The Bengals racked up over 400 passing yards, but most of the damage came off of the quick passing game and Thompson wasn’t tested deep in the second half.
Thompson looked to be playing with greater poise and better “play speed” than in previous seasons. More importantly, the Seahawks allowed him to be a bit more aggressive by playing him closer to the line in underneath coverage assignments rather than simply patrolling center field as a single-high safety.
Thompson’s assertiveness came back to bite him at times, as he overran a few plays. That’s to be expected in the season opener when players are amped up to be back on the field for a meaningful game for the first time in eight months and the Seahawks preach that type of aggression.
After reviewing the game film, Carroll thinks Thompson tried too hard to make something happen. Seeing how the young defender had himself positioned to make a play on the Ross touchdown and simply misjudged the flight of the ball, Carroll remains confident he’ll rebound against the Steelers this weekend.
“He’ll play better. It wasn’t because he wasn’t working hard or trying hard or knowing his assignments. He really was going for it and we kind of have a tendency - we can talk guys into that a little bit. He’ll do better.”
For now, Thompson’s starting role looks to be secure and the Seahawks wisely won’t be making any impulsive choices benching him this early in the season. But if he continues to struggle and get exposed in Pittsburgh, Carroll and his staff may have no choice but to make a switch.