These Seahawks are ball hawks

Richard Sherman

The Seattle Seahawks' ethereal defensive backs, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, didn't win Super Bowl XLVIII by being shy.

Earlier this month, they both spent some time chatting with ESPN.com from the team's facility in Renton, Washington. The occasion? There are more than 800 viable NFL defensive players, but our 90-person team of #NFLRANK evaluators placed teammates at Nos. 2 and 3.

"First of all," said Thomas, with a surprising degree of intensity, "who's second and who's third?"

The free safety wasn't thrilled with the hesitant answer: Sherman, then Thomas -- behind No. 1 Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

"OK, OK," Thomas said, processing the information. "Well, that's why they play the game."

Last year, no one played it better than these two high-flying teammates. Sherman, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound cornerback, had eight interceptions for the second consecutive year and 16 passes defensed.

Thomas, 5-10, 202 pounds, had 105 total tackles and five interceptions. They are the biggest reason Seattle finished the season in a blur, punctuated by a 43-8 wrecking of the Denver Broncos. The Seahawks, apparently, are on board with our voters because during the offseason they made Sherman the league's richest cornerback ($56 million extension for four years) and Thomas the richest safety ($40 million for four years).

"I appreciate the accolade, man," said Sherman, who will grace the cover of Madden NFL 15. "It's always great to be recognized."

To get back to Thomas' pointed question, who's the better player?

"Ahh, I don't know," said Sherman, who has heard this one a few times before. "We have two very different job descriptions. We're both pretty good at what we do.

"Earl is more of an aggressive ball-hawker. I go to the ball and keep people from catching it."

Although Sherman, at 26, is a year older, the safety says he learned by watching Thomas.

"His path was much different than mine," Thomas explained. "He was a fifth-round pick [Stanford, 2011] and I was a first-rounder [Texas, 2010]. What connects us is the way we work to try to perfect our craft. We understand the inner game.

"You should see us compete against each other. Together, we have no weaknesses."

They've played a total of seven NFL seasons, but it's not premature to wonder where Sherman and Thomas stack up with history's great defensive duos.

If the criteria is NFL titles and a cream-colored Hall of Fame jacket (or the future possibility), there are more than a few to chose from:

• Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp and freshly enshrined Derrick Brooks won the 2002 Super Bowl. Safety John Lynch may yet join them.

• The Ravens' Ray Lewis and Ed Reed both played on Baltimore's most recent Super Bowl team, but Reed wasn't there for the first.

• The New York Giants won Super Bowl XXI with linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson.

• The year before, Chicago did it with three Hall of Fame defenders: Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton and Richard Dent.

• The Raiders and 49ers won two Super Bowls each, respectively, with the tandems of Ted Hendricks/Willie Brown and Ronnie Lott/Fred Dean.

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