Saturday the Seattle Seahawks set the NFL world ablaze in making the splash move to acquire safety Jamal Adams from the New York Jets. That came just a day after the NFL and NFLPA had reached agreement on a resolution to the player health and safety issues, as well as the economic questions surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In short, after a long and boring offseason that seemed even longer than usual because it was even more boring than usual, the past two days have been a flurry of news and excitement.
However, it’s not excitement everywhere for everyone. Specifically, with the addition of Adams to the Seattle secondary, the Hawks have now spent a significant amount of draft capital on the safety position since the spring of 2019.
In the past 15 months the Seahawks have now used— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) July 25, 2020
- two first round picks
- a second round pick
- a third round pick
- a fifth round pick
For those keeping score at home, those draft picks have been spent as follows:
- Two first round picks (Adams)
- A second round pick (Marquise Blair)
- A third round pick (Adams) and
- A fifth round pick (Quandre Diggs)
During the 2019 season Diggs was the unquestioned starter at free safety when healthy, and his performance was sufficient to allow the Hawks to move on from 2017 fourth rounder Tedric Thompson and kept former third round pick Lano Hill on the bench. With both Diggs and Adams under contract through 2021, it certainly appears that the Hawks are set at safety for the next two seasons, barring injury.
That said, if Diggs and and Adams are sharpied in as the starters, where does that leave 2019 second round pick Marquise Blair?
Blair saw the field more than first round pick L.J. Collier, however, in spite of earning three starts during the year he played just 230 defensive snaps. In addition to seeing the starting nod be given to Hill in both the Week 16 and Week 17 losses to the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. In short, rather than earning more time as the season went along, Blair saw his playing time sharply curtailed. Starting with the win over the 49ers in Week 10 through the end of the regular season Blair played just 19 defensive snaps. According to all reports, the issue that prevented Blair from playing more was needing to play assignment sound rather than to go for the big play too often. That was a refrain that was first stated by Pete Carroll during training camp last season and was repeated over and over through the season.
If that bust was on Marquise Blair, it illustrates Pete Carroll's main concern about the rookie.— Joe Fann (@Joe_Fann) August 19, 2019
“He’s just got to learn what we’re doing, figure it out, and make sure that he’s really tight with all of his assignments and responsibilities,” Carroll said about Blair on Friday.
With more context and Pete Carroll's full comments, it's clear the issue for Marquise Blair is STILL learning the Alignment, Assignment and Technique. More scheme study is needed. He must be trusted to execute the defensive playbook and isn't right now by the coaching staff... https://t.co/SxNZAJOOEu pic.twitter.com/ogNIpGJmvG— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) October 9, 2019
Foregoing assignment sound football and chasing the big play is a criticism of Blair that has followed him through his career. It was the case at Dodge City Community College, where his athleticism allowed him to get away with more than other, less athletic, players. It was the case at the University of Utah, where tape showed it wasn’t an irregular occurrence for Blair to eschew his assignments in search of the big play. And it was something that former Field Gulls contributor Matty F. Brown touched on during the preseason last year after the game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Blair, unsure, asked Shead about his assignment.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) August 22, 2019
Shead checked Taylor and seemed to tell Blair to play 1/2. So Blair essentially doubled the single receiver.
Barton, who would have been responsible for Irv, then checked with Blair. Barton seemed to think Blair was taking Smith. pic.twitter.com/l4RIBcpv57
So, if Adams and Diggs are installed at safety the next two seasons, what is left for Blair? Some have tossed out the idea of Blair playing nickel corner, however, that’s a competition that is likely to be packed full as well, with both Quinton Dunbar and Ugo Amadi set to be in on the battle to be the fifth defensive back for Seattle.
What it all boils down to is that the secondary is set to be much improved in 2020 compared to last season, while there is also set to be a greatly increased amount of competition in camp and over the course of the season. Which means it’s now time for Blair to step up and show that he spent the offseason learning to play assignment sound football and to arrive at camp looking to unseat those above him on the depth chart.