Seattle had the “Legion of Boom.” Could Baltimore have the “Legion of Doom”?
Earl Thomas knows a thing or two about being part of a dominant secondary. Over his nine years in Seattle, Thomas anchored the Seahawks’ top-flight secondary (and defense) – the “Legion of Boom.”
During the “LOB” era, Thomas and the Seahawks racked up six consecutive winning seasons, three NFC West titles, two NFC championships, and a dominant Super Bowl XLVIII victory. They made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons.
For four years straight (2012-2015), the Seahawks led the NFL in scoring defense – something not accomplished since the 1950s Cleveland Browns. The 2013 defense led the league in points allowed, yards allowed, and takeaways – the first team to lead all three categories since the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Now Thomas comes to a city that also knows what playing great defense is all about, and it’ll be partly on his shoulders to continue that tradition.
“One thing I knew coming here, I knew I was going to be on a great defense,” Thomas said. “Defense is going to win you championships, so that was all I needed to know.”
Coming off the No. 1 ranking last year, Baltimore’s unit had undergone some big-time changes. Baltimore lost Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, likely future Hall of Famer Terrell Suggs, and last year’s leader in sacks Za’Darius Smith. Thomas replaced Weddle, who went to the Pro Bowl the past three seasons.
But when Thomas looks around him in the secondary, he finds Tony Jefferson next to him at safety and Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young and others at cornerback. It’s sort of like that “LOB” unit with Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Byron Maxwell.
“We’ve got big corners. We have a hot, active guy in Tony,” Thomas said Friday. “I just have to get used to the guys, man. We have to get in the lab and go to work. I can’t harp on the ‘LOB.’ That’s in the past.”
According to Spotrac, the Ravens currently have a league-high 28.4 percent of their 2019 salary cap allotted to the secondary ($54.8 million). In addition to signing Thomas, the Ravens also brought in unrestricted free agent Justin Bethel, primarily because of his special teams prowess, but also as more playmaking depth in the secondary.
Changes could still be coming for Baltimore’s secondary, but if it remains intact, there’s no doubt that the Ravens will have one of the NFL’s strongest units in 2019. And with Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale dialing up creative looks, and Thomas being among the NFL's best in executing disguises, the Ravens will continue to flummox opponents.
The one area that the Ravens defense didn’t put up robust numbers last season was in takeaways. After leading the league in interceptions (22) in 2017, the Ravens were tied with the 11th-fewest last year (12).
Seattle also only had 12 picks, but Thomas had three in four games before suffering a broken leg. His three interceptions would have led Baltimore’s secondary last year.
If the Ravens can continue to lock down opponents’ yardage while adding in more takeaways, they’ll take the next step in having an elite defense. Thomas, who has 28 career interceptions in nine seasons, should help, and one game he’ll certainly have circled on the calendar is a trip to Seattle in 2019.
“I want to have a good game. I definitely want to ball out,” Thomas said. “But I’m just taking it one day at a time, one practice, one session, one walk-through. We’ll see what happens.”