Earl Thomas is not Ed Reed, but there’s no doubt that Thomas is Reed-like.
The comparisons have been flying ever since Thomas agreed to terms with Baltimore on the first day of free agency, and Thomas didn’t shy way from them in an introductory press conference Friday.
Asked why he chose to sign with the Ravens, Reed was the first thing out of Thomas’ mouth.
“You look at Ed Reed, guys like Ray Lewis, I feel like that’s my style of play,” Thomas said. “I have that type of swagger. It’s a historic franchise, so I have an opportunity to bring my blueprint to the table.”
Thomas said he liked watching Reed on film, “how he moved.” He emulated the way Reed and former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu played the game – coming out of nowhere to break underneath a route and intercept a pass or always being in the right spot for a tipped pass or overthrow.
“[They] are like how I play the game,” Thomas said. “I try to not be them, but I watch and see.”
Thomas has since struck up a relationship with Reed. The two met at the ESPYs and have stayed in touch.
Running back Mark Ingram said Reed reached out to him to talk about how good a fit he would be in Baltimore. Thomas didn’t say whether Reed did the same for him, but it’s clear that the G.O.A.T. approved of the signing.
So will the Ravens get similar production from Thomas? Former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe and other pundits certainly see the similarities.
A reporter asked General Manager Eric DeCosta whether he saw it as a fair comparison. It’s a tough one to answer. Reed is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and many would argue the best playmaking defensive back of all-time.
Thomas has 28 career interceptions in his nine seasons. In his first nine years in the NFL, Reed had a staggering 54 picks. So Thomas isn’t quite there yet, but he’s definitely in that mold.
“Well, I think Earl is a playmaker and there’s no greater playmaker in the NFL at safety than Ed,” DeCosta said. “They have maybe different styles in some respects, but both guys can win a game for you.”
DeCosta said Thomas, a first-round pick out of the University of Texans at Austin in 2010, was one of the fastest, most explosive safeties the Ravens had ever seen. His ball skills, aggressiveness and versatility make him a “unique player,” DeCosta added.
Even the demeanor that Thomas brought to Friday’s press conference is reminiscent of Reed. Thomas was business-like, all while his brain seemed to be running at 100 miles per hour. While Ingram wore a buttoned-up suit, Thomas sat next to him in a black-and-white sweat suit. He doesn’t seem to be eager to conform. Reed was a legendary leader, and Thomas comes with the same reputation.
On the field, Thomas’ unique coverage ability on the back end will help the Ravens maintain, or even improve upon, arguably the NFL’s best secondary from a year ago.
One area where Baltimore’s defense didn’t sit at or near the top of the league was turnovers. Thomas had three in just four games played last year before suffering a broken leg. Three interceptions would have led the Ravens last season.
The Ravens’ No. 1-ranked defense last season upheld Baltimore’s defensive tradition. Whether Thomas can fill Reed’s shoes or not, he intends to keep that tradition alive.
“I’m here to do what I always do, and that’s ball,” Thomas said. “One thing I knew coming here, I knew I was going to be on a great defense. Defense, we’re gonna win you championships. That was all I needed to know.”