Welcome back as we continue the mini series looking at breakout candidates from each position group for the Seattle Seahawks!
This is position group number two: safety. Or slot corner. It’s defensive back of some sort, I know that much.
Here’s the deal - I wanted this to be Marquise Blair so badly. Like I really, really, wanted this to be Marquise Blair. Things like this made me want to quit watching defense last season:
Pete Carroll says Lano Hill has experience over Marquise Blair and that's why he's getting reps over him right now #Seahawks— Jessamyn McIntyre (@JessamynMcIntyr) December 30, 2019
But it’s not going to be Blair.
Which is fine! Hopefully. Bradley McDougald is 29 until the latter part of the 2020 season, and much of the shade thrown his way by disgruntled fans was undeserved. He had an Approximate Value of six from Pro Football Reference, which is fine and much higher than his first season with the Seahawks. He had more QB hits than ever before, two interceptions, a fumble recovered and forced. His 70 tackles were on par with his average in Seattle. He also had his first ever half a sack which is pretty nifty, and more passes defensed than in 2017. All that came with the worst bunch of safety help he’s probably had in his career, which absolutely affected McDougald as he finished the season much stronger than he started - see next paragraph for why.
On the other side, Quandre Diggs was at times the only defender capable of getting the defense off the field in a big way, and made a huge impact in big plays and energy for a defense that lacked an identity last season. Diggs and McDougald are probably still the best options at the full-time safety spots for one more year, though it would be a double eyebrow-raising event if Blair doesn’t see the field far more than last season.
This year’s breakout candidate for the defensive backs will therefore be Ugochukwu Amadi.
Ugo Amadi has already cemented his place on the roster again in 2020 by his special teams play alone. This was by no means his only big play as gunner, but still my favorite, preseason and all.
They really like him on punts of all kinds, so he’s a lock.
But more importantly, he still has the backfield versatility that got him drafted as a free safety / slot corner hybrid. He played a great deal of free safety in college among other things, but has been tested out closer to the line of scrimmage in Seattle.
Amadi’s path to a position hinges on one big variable, which I’ve started sounding the bell on already. The Seattle Seahawks will not do well to play as much base defense with all three linebackers as last season. They may very well do it - this is still the coach who burns a second timeout to save a 1.5 yard delay of game penalty on his own three yard line. But it was of questionable success last year, and I see no way to an improvement in 2020 using the same scheme. None.
KJ Wright is still coming off a surgery with an unknown timetable. Mychal Kendricks is likely not going to be in prison being as he’s probably not going to actually learn his sentence until he’s older than John Ursua. But he’s currently not with the team and has a problematic ACL rehab that means his 2020 season will neither be as long nor successful as previous years. Jordyn Brooks is a rookie. A first round rookie, and hopefully a good one, but if Pete Carroll trusts Ken Norton to trust base defense enough to trust Jordyn Brooks as a full-time three-down linebacker than I don’t trust any of them.
If the Seattle defense runs anywhere near as much base again in 2020, they’re doubling down on the madness with a near guarantee for regression.
Therefore, nickel and dime packages
will might make more of an appearance once again for Seattle. Meaning more time for cornerbacks.
Meaning Ugo Amadi beating out Tre Flowers as first corner off the bench.
Sounds crazy, right? Tre Flowers has two entire seasons as a CB2, and Amadi is a fourth-round pick who hasn’t even registered 20 tackles yet.
But Amadi has better size and college experience than Flowers to play at least six games - all the ones against the NFC West. Sean McVay and his 27 wideouts come to town and do ridiculous yards against the Seahawks too frequently.
For those who recall, Field Gulls own Mookie Alexander shared his thoughts from two months back:
At 6’3” and with not much in the way of agility, lateral quickness, or quick feet, Flowers as a slot corner seems like a recipe for disaster. One of the pass interference penalties against the Eagles occurred while in the slot against Greg Ward. I suspect that Ugo Amadi (and whomever else is signed/drafted) will be occupying that spot when next season rolls around.
If Quinton Dunbar does indeed beat out Flowers for the second corner position, Seattle should give Amadi a serious look to play against the third and fourth receivers that these spread offenses in the West are running.
Here’s Amadi playing one of his limited nickel snaps last year
cool visual of the #1 player (the nickel, ugo amadi) rerouting 2 and then taking 1's fin route back pic.twitter.com/PkF98s0QG3— 4th & quarantine (@cmikesspinmove) May 26, 2020
Here’s his hips demonstrating that they don’t lie
Ugo Amadi's easiest transition to the Seahawks system is doing cover 2 slot work like he did at Oregon. Here he excels as a hook defender in Seattle's typical inside the 10 pass defense: Red 2 (LA). There's no window for Drew Lock and Denver is held to 3pic.twitter.com/9rOh4Mgh6t— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) August 14, 2019
This is the year to play Ugo Amadi, and this is the year for him to remind Seattle fans what a team looks like not giving up 350 passing yards in the middle of the field.