The Seattle Seahawks are proud to have built a vicious, young secondary which is widely considered one of the league’s best. This physically imposing group proudly embraces their fan-appointed moniker, “The Legion of Boom.” They walk with swagger and terrorize opposing quarterbacks league-wide on a regular basis. Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner: all four are budding superstars on their way to being household names with their weekly displays of on-field dominance. Yet with all the success, there seems to be a forgotten man among the talent in Seattle who may still be in line for stardom: Walter Thurmond III.
Taken in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of the University of Oregon, Thurmond has flashed incredible talent at times. His problem has never been a lack of talent though — it’s been his health. If not for a disastrous injury sustained on the field during his final season in college where he tore three knee ligaments, Thurmond likely would have been drafted in the first two rounds of the draft. Instead, the Seahawks were able to land him with the 111th-overall pick. Despite his gruesome injury, the plan was still for Thurmond to become a major contributor in Seattle’s secondary after recovering from his college injury. Unfortunately, that plan has yet to come to fruition, and Thurmond finds himself entering a make or break season.
With the meteoric rise of young cornerbacks Sherman and Browner, it’s fair to wonder where Thurmond fits into Seattle’s secondary — if he fits anywhere. At 5’11” and 190 pounds, he may have prototypical size by most NFL team standards, but he appears to lack the ridiculous size and length Pete Carroll seems to covet in his starting corners. After all, Sherman stands 6’3” and Browner measures in at 6’4”. Regardless of size, however, Thurmond could be a valuable and versatile player capable of contributing in both nickel and dime packages as well as Carroll’s infamous “bandit” package.
When healthy, Thurmond displays good short area quickness and great read and react ability. He shows toughness playing inside and is not afraid to do his part in the run game. In short, Thurmond can be a top-end nickel or No. 3 cornerback for the Seahawks with some minor adjustments and refinement to his technique. His strengths seem to compliment the starting defensive backs on the roster and strongly coincide with the attributes the Seahawks coaching staff look for in a nickel corner.
With the Seahawks signing veteran corner Antoine Winfield in free agency, it’s clear Thurmond has been put on notice. Though Winfield’s deal only runs through the 2013 season, the Seattle coaching staff will expect Thurmond to compete with him for immediate time as the nickel corner. It may not seem like the ideal situation for Seattle if Thurmond were to go out and win the job from the start of the season, but this would give the Seahawks a couple of intriguing options.
The first option — if Thurmond plays well out the gate — would be to start him over Winfield. Seattle would then be allotted a year to ensure he is capable of staying healthy while having a veteran, Pro-Bowl caliber cornerback behind him in Winfield. This probably would not sit too well with Winfield and may lead to his outright release if he took it hard enough. However, he is on the tail-end of a stellar career and it’s clear the only thing on his mind is a ring. That alone may be enough for him to suck up his pride and stick around were his projected role to diminish.
Another possibility if Thurmond were to exceed expectations would be for Seattle to trade him. Injuries aside, there is enough game tape on him for scouts and coaches to evaluate his NFL abilities. Remember, Thurmond managed to beat out Sherman for the starting cornerback job in 2011 when he was healthy (it should be noted that Sherman was a rookie at the time and went on to win the job later that season and never relinquished it). Plus, the Seahawks front office has shown a willingness to listen to reasonable trade offers. A possible trade partner could be the cornerback-needy Philadelphia Eagles. Thurmond played under Eagles new head coach Chip Kelly at the University of Oregon and Kelly could be willing to take a small gamble on a position of need. After all, their secondary is relatively depleted with the departures of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The best possible scenario for the Seahawks, however, would be for Thurmond to regain his physical form over the course of the 2013 season behind Winfield on the depth chart. He would be utilized as a valuable part of the Seahawks’ dime and bandit packages and prove to the coaching staff that he is capable of withstanding the rigors of a 16-plus-game season in the NFL, as well as holding off talented young players like Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon. If that can happen, Thurmond should move seamlessly into the No. 3 role in 2014 and perhaps the “Legion of Boom” will finally have their fifth member.