Seahawks expecting strong second seasons from Okung, Thomas

Posted Feb. 26, 2011 @ 3:29 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

It remains to be seen if the Seahawks will be able to hit a home run with the 25th pick in the first round of this year's draft. In the meantime, they couldn't be more excited about the progress they are expecting from their two first-round picks last season — OLT Russell Okung and FS Earl Thomas. In their rookie campaigns, Okung was the top performer on a patchwork line despite never being fully healthy. Meanwhile, Thomas displayed electrifying flashes, diligently honing his craft under the watchful eye of veteran SS Lawyer Milloy, among others.

"The sky's the limit for Russell," GM John Schneider told PFW at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "Russell had an interesting rookie year. Here's a guy that, when we evaluated him, he hadn't had any injuries in college, and then he comes into camp a little late and had a little holdout. Then he gets a high ankle sprain. Well, he has never had a high ankle sprain before. He tries to come back as quickly as he can, and he hurts the other one, which is incredibly rare. Our doctors were shocked. And they were bad high ankle sprains. So I think from a confidence level, he was a little shaken. But I think toward the end of the season, we saw him getting back to where he could be. And when he came back from his first high ankle sprain against Chicago, he had an excellent game against one of the premier pass rushers in our league (Julius Peppers)."

Schneider went on to discuss the huge learning curve that the 21-year-old Thomas faced as the starting free safety from the Day One.

"He was like a cat on a wire early on," Schneider said. "He was ready to just jump on everything. He had some good production, and in doing that, he gave up some big plays, and I think (head coach) Pete Carroll and (defensive coordinator) Gus Bradley and those guys, they did a great job of kind of reining him in a little bit and really teaching him how to play the position. He finished the season very strong in a professional manner in terms of his preparation and studying the game and being in the right spot yet keeping that aggressiveness."