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Seahawks Position Battle: Safety

The Incumbent:

C.J. Wallace

Wallace wasn't the favorite last season, but beat out a weak field after cracking skulls in the preseason. Wallace recorded 9 non-special teams tackles, an interception and a pass defense. Against the run, his five tackles were after a collective 38 yards gained. Those five plays were run with a collective 38 yards needed for the first down. Only his stop after 4 yards on 2nd and 8 can be seen as successful. He recorded four tackles against the pass, a pass defense and a pick. The tackles were after a combined 79 yards. Those four passes were thrown with a collective 53 yards to the first down. None were successful. As a run stopper, Wallace was doing mostly mop up work. The kind of hustle tackles fans appreciate but do not help a team to win. Wallace, according to his tackles, wasn't very effective against the run. Still, it's a very small sample and Wallace has the skills to be a run stopper. The pass stats look superficially good. If we credit Wallace for a 0 on the pass defense and a -40 on the INT, he allowed only 55% of yards needed per pass play. Again, it's an imperfect stat and small sample size. In reality, Wallace is much worse against the pass than against the run. So this showing was probably a fluke.

Wallace served as a third string safety during the season and didn't do anything noteworthy. During the preseason, I noted Wallace twice. After the match against Oakland, to confirm he had played well enough to earn a spot on the practice squad and perhaps the roster. And previously, after the match against Green Bay, noting a badly missed tackle.

If we dig into his college profile we see a 3 year starter, with a little pop (5 forced fumbles), little in the way of pass rush or interceptions (1 and 2 respectively) that amassed big tackle numbers on some bottom dwelling defenses. Safeties and linebackers, especially high-motor types, often wrack up tackles on bad defenses. He wasn't invited to the combine, wasn't considered a prospect and posted a 4.83/40 at UW's pro day. 40 times don't define a player, but it's a decent indicator of their raw quickness and/or speed. Let's put it this way, 4.83 is what Lofa Tatupu ran in the neutral environs of the Combine. The time that devalued Tatupu's stock. As a middle linebacker. Wallace is slooow.

Wallace isn't very talented. Making the roster last season was one part a surprise showing in the preseason and one part a lack of competition. His most celebrated plays, a fumble recovery and an interception are not likely to be repeated. If a roster squeeze comes and Seattle retains only eight defensive backs (I would count on it), Wallace is likely to be cut. That's going to bite some toes, but let's be serious. Players like C.J. rarely get that year.

The Prospect:

Jamar Adams

There's not a ton to add about Adams. He's lean, rangy--definitely in the Deon Grant mold for strong safeties: A free safety with enough toughness, mass and pop to play strong. I've only had one real good look at him firsthand, but was impressed.

I really like Jamar Adams' length. He's long, agile and surprisingly adept at Cover 1. He made a nice break on a ball in the end zone, displaying nice read, nice quickness but only so-so hands. Those hands are what separates him from being a viable free safety. But those hands aren't a mortal deficit, they can be improved. He's also a little chippy; plays with cockiness, a little aggression, meanness. After bottling up Julius Jones (editor's note: actually Justin Forsett)--Jones churning his legs, fighting for extra yardage--the undrafted rookie planted the veteran millionaire Adams swaggers, shirt untucked, with a lot of ego. Take that for what you will.

It's up to Adams to play well in the preseason. I know the team wants to retain him, because he won't survive the practice squad. When a talent like Adams drops out of the draft, you get one chance, because he won't wait on the practice squad and teams won't wait to sign him off it. But football must retain some semblance of meritocracy, and it would be hard to dignify retaining Adams over Wallace should Adams struggle and Wallace again catch lightning in a bottle. I said it before, "training camps and the preseason are a curious winnowing process where fans must hope the best player plays the best and is not unseated by someone less deserving." You hope Adams does well because whatever he does in the next 4 preseason games, his potential over his career is head and shoulders above Wallace.

The Wild Card:

Jordan Babineaux

I use the term "Wild Card" loosely, because in my mind Babineaux is Seattle's second string safety barring injury or something likewise unforeseen. The team spent a second round pick on Josh Wilson and he'll be given every opportunity to win the nickel spot. The emergence of Kevin Hobbs makes Seattle enviably deep at corner and should lead to more and better dime packages. Making Babineaux a nickelback in light of the depth at corner and lack of depth at safety would be pretty senseless. Especially senseless after a season in which Babineaux badly struggled in man coverage. Get thee to free safety!

The Practice Squad:

Kelin Johnson or Eric Wicks

These two are deadlocked for a spot on the practice squad. If you love the preseason, this is a contest to watch. Both played for strong defenses, Johnson a Georgia Bulldog (16th as ranked by FEI), Wicks a West Virginia Mountaineer (14th as ranked by FEI). Wicks has it over Johnson in size, athleticism and production. Wicks had a monster 2006: 3 picks, 11 tackles for a loss and 7 sacks. His 2007 was still respectable but not so eye-popping: 3 picks, 7 TFL and 2 sacks. Does his game translate? We shall see.

I've covered Johnson. His game probably does translate, albeit in a diminished form. Since my original write up, Johnson hasn't received much press. That shouldn't be construed as bad. Johnson is a cover safety and his best work isn't really noteworthy. Johnson is polished, and should Seattle see free safety depth as its more pressing need, has a clearer route to the practice squad.

The Field: