Doom and gloom? The Seattle Seahawks have lost Earl Thomas for the year, but Steven Terrell is better than you might think.
Earl Thomas is injured. Earl Thomas is an incredible player. If you are a Seahawks fan and want to be properly terrified, read Danny Kelly’s excellent piece from today to get a sense of how important Thomas is for Seattle’s defense and scheme, and what the team now expects Steven Terrell to try to replace.
Or this little nugget of joy from Danny’s article:
"Through 12 weeks, the Seahawks had posted a minus-74.7 percent DVOA on deep middle passes, per Football Outsiders’ charting (negative numbers are good on defense), more than twice as good as the second-best Giants. Per NFL GSIS’s tracking, Seattle has given up just four deep completions over the middle of the field, and two of those came after Thomas had left the game on Sunday."
Or take in the fact that Football Outsiders (FO) has docked Seattle’s defense 4% in their projections due to the loss of Thomas. It is very rare for FO to take into account injuries to defensive players in their projections; Thomas is currently one of only two defender injuries (the other is Desmond Trufant) that FO is penalizing.
Enter Steven Terrell
Those of you who follow me on twitter know that Steven Terrell ran a 4.3. He also went to Texas A&M and has been on Seattle’s roster since October 2014. Let’s take a look at how he did on Sunday.
Let’s start with the fateful first play after Thomas left the game (and the season) with an injury.
[CAR 3-17 CAR 45] (10:40) (Shotgun) C.Newton pass deep middle to T.Ginn for 55 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
On the TV broadcast, it looked like Terrell was the closest player to Ginn, and giving up a TD in the deep middle on Terrell’s first play was an ominous sign. However, the Seahawks are playing a sort of weird cover 2 where the safeties are very wide and Wagner is very deep (because it was 3rd and 17).
While Terrell is tracking the receiver in his zone, Kam watches Ginn run right by him and Wagner can’t keep up. I don’t think this has anything to do with Terrell — the Panthers had the perfect play call to attack Seattle’s defense, and Kam could have played this better.
Let’s go to the next Seattle defensive series.
[CAR 1-10 CAR 25] (9:44) (Shotgun) C.Newton pass short left to K.Benjamin to CAR 36 for 11 yards (B.Wagner; D.Shead).
This is the next Panthers offensive play. The Seahawks come out in their more typical single high safety look. They don’t attack Seattle deep (yet) but get an 11 yard gain on first down by attacking the space between KJ and Shead (we will see this again).
[CAR 1-10 CAR 36] (9:05) J.Stewart left end to CAR 36 for no gain (B.Wagner; M.Morgan).
This is the next play. I’m including this play to show how Terrell is a lot slower than Earl in diagnosing plays. He takes a step back even after the ball is pitched rather than flying to the ball like Earl does.
[CAR 2-10 CAR 36] (8:18) (Shotgun) J.Stewart up the middle to CAR 36 for no gain (K.Chancellor).
Terrell is a little quicker here. Kam Chancellor is good. Please stay healthy, Kam.
[CAR 3-10 CAR 36] (7:42) (Shotgun) C.Newton pass incomplete deep middle to K.Benjamin.
Newton looks off Terrell and has Benjamin with inside leverage on the much smaller Lane but misses the throw badly. On first glance it looks like Terrell takes a strange break towards the receiver but I think it’s his reaction to the path of the ball. Terrell appears to be so concerned about being beat deep that he was a bit late coming up (not necessarily a bad thing); this is an example of where Earl probably gets there quicker.
A couple other things of interest
Remember how earlier Danny had to be a downer and tell us that “Seattle has given up just four deep completions over the middle of the field, and two of those came after Thomas had left the game on Sunday”? The first one was the TD. Here is the second one.
[CAR 3-16 SEA 38] (3:04) (Shotgun) C.Newton pass deep middle to D.Funchess to SEA 14 for 24 yards (K.Chancellor)
We saw this earlier where there is a split second in KJ’s handoff to Shead where the receiver comes open. I think Shead has to be a little more aware of the situation where there’s no receiver within 30 yards of him and come up a little quicker. Newton connects on this again. Like the TD, I don’t think this had anything to do with Terrell.
[CAR 1-10 CAR 25] (14:48) F.Whittaker left end to CAR 28 for 3 yards (B.Wagner).
Clearly communication issues here. Terrell even gives a little “my bad” gesture afterwards. Seattle got lucky that it wasn’t a pass play and hopefully they get this ironed out.
It’s hard to know what to make of Seattle’s defense this game. On the one hand, Cam was not shy about testing the Seahawks deep, and aside from one play, he did not succeed. On the other hand, so many of Cam’s deep balls were so erratic that it’s hard to tell what would have happened if a better QB (such as, say, Aaron Rodgers) were playing. Sunday will be interesting.