The Seattle Seahawks promoted safety Adrian Colbert to the active roster last week and coaches have been heaping praise and hopefulness on the 25-year-old defensive back. Is he worth the hype? Here’s a quick scouting report on the latest candidate to fill the massive void left by Earl Thomas.
Colbert played college football at Texas and Miami (Florida) where he shone on specials but played little actual defense—and when he did he struggled. After having a pre-draft visit with the Seahawks in 2017, Colbert was picked in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers. He appeared in 11 games his rookie year, which saw Colbert thrust into the starting free safety role and eventually starting the final five games.
Colbert began the 2018 season listed as the starter at free safety, where he started six games before a high ankle sprain ended his year. He had 21 tackles and San Francisco’s secondary was considered one of the worst in the NFL, finishing with only two interceptions as a team. Colbert was cut by the 49ers on August 31 and Seattle signed him to their practice squad on September 18, then promoted him to their active roster on Thursday of last week. The promotion was part of the agreement per Bob Condotta.
- Good speed for the position (4.49 forty) and plays quicker than he tested.
- Excellent intermediate zone defender footwork, a velvety scoot that gains rapid but controlled depth. Fluid weave backpedal gaining depth when operating in a deep third zone.
- Excellent zone adaption to quarterback roll outs, possessing the ability to remove multiple routes from deep and intermediate coverage.
- Very good landmarks for deep 1/3 zone technique, intermediate buzz/hook-curl technique. For instance, cheating 60-40 as the deep safety to trips in his lean post technique. As a buzz defender, his spacing and comprehension impresses, with him adjusting based on indicators. One example is how he worked his way underneath deeper drops and routes against an isolated receiver.
- Very good off-man and off-match coverage footwork, rarely letting his feet cross and being highly efficient.
- Very good awareness in off-man coverage, defending the sticks on third and longs and not letting receivers step on his toes.
- Very good recovery ability, enabled by his speed and awareness. Most his “range” plays were more him covering up the for mistakes of others.
- Good range from deep, which is helped by an excellent awareness of fellow defensive backs and their coverage responsibility plus very good speed for the position. Colbert’s good footwork efficiency from a weave pedal or fast pedal gives him little wasted movement and adds to his ability to match the stems of routes into his zone and get over the top of deep sideline routes from the middle of the field.
- Good ball skills but poor production, aided by his high-point ability.
- Excellent tracking ability on ball carriers, rarely over-pursuing thanks to superb near-hip leverage maintenance.
- Good play diagnosis time is accompanied by a want to fire downhill against the run.
- Very good hit power, with the ability to rock running backs from a shoulder strike technique. He is violent taking on blockers, bench pressing wide receivers and playing bigger than his size.
- Good open-field tackling, with multiple types of tackle in his locker.
- Good competitive toughness, visibly amped up on the field and encouraging players.
- Marginal athlete (3.80 RAS score).
- Adequate transitions from read pedal to fast pedal when playing in a deep 1/3 zone, which sees seam routes gain ground on him and results in tricky angles and routes getting in behind.
- Adequate processing from deep. Blake Bortles and Sean Mannion managed to move Colbert off his speed. Colbert is susceptible to eye-fakes, but it’s shoulder and hitch fakes really get him. Colbert will also eat the “cheese” intermediate routes, vacating the post. The Chiefs and the Cardinals got him good with the intermediate crosser of a “yankee” concept. He is an overly reactive not proactive safety who could not be trusted to defend the post—his assignment at Free Safety
- Solid as a deep half defender, with the landmarks patchy and the processing totally unfamiliar.
- Solid read pedal footwork, with added steps reducing his range from the technique and leaving him taking super round, slower cuts. He can rise and stand up in his read pedal too early, which can limit his trigger speed.
- Adequate balance. Colbert has serious issues when trying to switch his momentum from going backwards to forwards, often resulting in slips and faceplants into the turf. This is particularly noticeable when he tries to trigger from his read pedal but also happened versus the Chiefs after an impressive open field speed turn to recover. The most painful incident was when Blake Bortles overthrew a pass right to Colbert, who caught the ball but couldn’t complete the process of the catch because he inexplicably stumbled head first into the turf.
- Solid tackling in the hole due to a failure to come-to-balance and a “playing over his skis” appearance.
Cautious to undercut routes or make a big hit from a deep 1/3, in zone or man pass defense, instead opting to be in position to make the tackle rather than risking a miss. This caution happens when joining piles from deep, with Colbert taking a “contain” position.
Pete Carroll’s take
“I particularly like him on the back end playing free safety because he’s got really exceptional range and all of that.’
“We really think he’s got great potential. He’s really fast, he’s really tough. He finished his career at Miami, transferring in. We just picked him up a long time ago. He’s just one of those guys to me that demonstrates the kind of energy that we really like when we play. He loves to run and hit, now. He’s really fast, running 4.3s (in the 40-yard dash). He was 211 pounds yesterday. Big kid, strong kid. He’s got kind of spirit about him, too. He kind of fired me up.”
Colbert is a solid backup free safety in the league who, with a schematic refresher, could be a functioning replacement. He must correct the assignment breaks. Hearing the cover 3 message from a different coaching staff, one which the Pete Carroll system came from, could remove the mistakes that prevent Colbert from being a starting free safety. His pursuit angles and speed give him the potential to be an exciting special teams star.