Earl Thomas draws comparisons to Ed Reed, Polamalu

PHOENIX -- With four Pro Bowl appearances and three first-team All-Pro selections under his belt by age 25, Earl Thomas is the successor to Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu as the game-changing safety of his generation.

Thomas' freakish range is the fulcrum on which the Seattle Seahawks' historically great defense rests.

"He's phenomenal," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady raved this week. "The way he plays the middle of the field, he's not physically a big guy, but he plays big and he's got great speed, he's got great anticipation, he sees the field really well. He's a playmaker."

Brady compared Thomas to Reed for their ability to take control of the game from the defense's back end.

"The safety position is being the safety for the whole defense and you take that literally," Brady continued. "It's about preventing big plays, it's about roaming the deep part of the field, making sure the opposing offense isn't making those game-changing plays. This Seahawks team has done a better job than any team in the league of not giving up big plays."

Spotlight-loving Richard Sherman is the Legion of Boom's playmaker. Kam Chancellor is revered for his bone-jarring hits. Thomas' range and instincts allow the rest of the defense to take more chances, but they're not conveniently identifiable outside of coach's film.

"Earl is as good as any of the (safeties) I've ever coached," coach Pete Carroll said in July 2013. "All those guys are different, and Earl is more like Troy (Polamalu) because of his extraordinary speed and his size and all that. But there's no end to the potential that Earl has, because he's so fast and he's so tough. But more than that, he's just so driven to be great."

That's especially high praise coming from Carroll, who has watched first-hand as Polamalu, Ronnie Lott, Joey Browner, Tim McDonald, Lawyer Milloy and Lonnie Young combined for 33 Pro Bowls, 25 All-Pro berths and eight Super Bowl championships.

If Tom Brady is Super Bowl XLIX's automatic Hall of Famer, Thomas ranks with Sherman and Rob Gronkowski as the most likely to join him in Canton.

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