RENTON – The “Thunder and Lightning” nickname for Seahawks safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor is catchy but has a flaw.
Which player is which?
If we’re attaching atmospheric phenomena to football attributes, the lightning probably implies speed, and thunder refers to concussive hits. These guys have both; Thomas hits extraordinarily hard for a fast guy, and Chancellor is uncommonly fast for a big hitter.
“Whatever people want to say, that’s fine ... as long as we win,” Thomas said Wednesday.
It might be better to skip the nickname entirely and simply point out that they’re the youngest starting-safety tandem in the NFL (Chancellor at 23 and Thomas 22), and their potential is enormous – as witnessed by their 17 combined tackles in the season-opening loss at San Francisco.
Sometimes when safeties have big statistics in a loss, it’s an indictment of the effort of the front seven. But of their stops, four were tackles for losses or no gains, another six were for 5 or fewer yards, and only one was a big gainer (26 yards).
“They are a special pair,” said Seattle secondary coach Kris Richard. “You can tell how committed they are; they love playing ball and playing it the right way. To be so young and be so far ahead of the game is remarkable.”
This was expected of Thomas, the 14th overall pick of the 2010 draft, but Chancellor was a fifth-rounder that year out of Virginia Tech. Thomas was a big-play Texas Longhorn who ran the 40 in the 4.3s, while Chancellor was bigger than some Seahawks linebackers at 6-foot-3, 232 pounds.
If the two are developing an almost telepathic connection on the field at times now, it’s an outgrowth of their off-the-field friendship. “Ever since we got here, Kam and I have been the best of friends; he’s been my roommate since day one,” Thomas said. “We work out in the summer together, so the chemistry has been there from the start.”
In the offseason, they get together for extra work and also head to a fitness center and terrorize locals who show up for some pick-up basketball action.
“It was just something that clicked,” Chancellor said of their friendship.
Both of them believe the closeness transfers to the football field.
“We knew we have each other’s back and we can play off each other,” Chancellor said. “We study so much together, I know if he’s going to jump a route, then I’ve got him over the top. And if I’m wrong sometime, I can handle him yelling at me about it, and if he’s wrong, he can handle me yelling.”
So, the two are enablers – especially when it comes to delivering big hits. Thomas got that started on Sunday when he tackled 49ers’ 250-pound tight end Vernon Davis with what looked like a pro wrestling pile-driver move. It’s not the kind of treatment Davis has been used to receiving from Seahawks safeties.
“My mentality is that this it’s a rough and rugged (game),” Thomas said. “I’m trying to fight and claw to bring somebody down. I had the opportunity to dump him, and I did.”
They know where the challenges lie, and they also see the opportunities.
“We always tell each other we’re trying to be the best safety tandem in the league,” Chancellor said.
So maybe it’s better not to consider them separately, one as thunder and the other as lightning. It’s more appropriate to envision them together for a long time in the Seahawks secondary, comprising a perfect storm.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org