Analyzing a highlight reel is good hype but bad scouting.
Consider this analogy: In 2000, Tony Batista hit 40 home runs but finished 70th among all batters in wins over replacement. Batista was an above average defender, but he didn’t walk very often, and his batting average was .263. Alex Rodriguez also hit 41 home runs that year but was nearly four times as valuable as Batista.
All sports have some kind of equivalent because in all sports splash plays are infrequent, but contribution is constant. It is my belief that splash plays are massively overvalued. The entire value of a very cool looking and very exciting tackle for a loss can be negated by a blown assignment on the next play. There’s a reason that one of the greatest coaches in league history preaches the philosophy of “Do your job.”
Today I begin looking at Jamal Adams for an entire game. I have not prepped this. I did not even view the game in advance. I have no intention at all of making Adams look bad. For a whole variety of reasons, it would serve me best if he was a goddamn world beater every damn snap. But he’s not gonna be because no one is. How often he contributes something, through sound technique, assignment correct football, and all the little plays which thrill wonks like me, will tell us a great deal about how good Adams actually is.
I’d rather do a full breakdown of every snap but that’s unrealistic. People won’t read it. Instead, whenever Adams’s contributions are particularly minor, or whenever a play is resolved more or less away from him and his potential to directly affect it, I’ll just say as much.
The game I picked to analyze is the Jets win over the Cowboys in Week 6. My reasoning behind picking this game is: the game was close, the Jets were not overmatched, the Cowboys had a very good offense, the Cowboys start a very good quarterback, and the Seahawks face the Cowboys this season.
Here we go!
1ST & 10 AT DAL 33(12:40)
(12:40) E.Elliott left guard to DAL 35 for 2 yards (L.Williams).
Adams (33) does a good job of signaling something to New York’s left cornerback.
Closing from a two-deep shell look, Adams is exactly where he needs to be if the run were to break through to the second level. It doesn’t.
He’s even squared up perfectly.
2ND & 8 AT DAL 35(12:04)
(12:04) (Shotgun) D.Prescott pass short left to A.Cooper to DAL 38 for 3 yards (B.Poole).
We get our first funky look from Gregg Williams.
Adams is heavily involved in communicating with his teammates. I won’t note this every time.
He gets a good jump from the second level. Ezekiel Elliott (21) is poorly positioned to pick up Adams’ blitz.
Elliott is nevertheless able to flash in front of Prescott and at least slow Adams. Adams leapfrogs Elliott.
He’s the only defender pressuring Prescott but it’s enough (and rightly so) for Prescott to target a short route underneath. A good tackle by Brian Poole limits the reception to three yards. Despite the yardage gained, Dallas loses 0.3 expected points.
3RD & 5 AT DAL 38(11:35)
(11:35) (Shotgun) D.Prescott pass incomplete deep right to A.Cooper (T.Johnson) [B.Cashman].
Adams is wide right in man coverage against Jason Witten (82). He remains squared to Witten throughout his release, and lands a solid jab to his left shoulder to further slow and disrupt Witten.
Witten attempts to use Adams’s physical style against him, pushing Adams off by pushing his arms at the top of his stem.
It doesn’t work.
Even a fastball to Witten’s outside shoulder is inadvisable.
Jets score a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
1ST & 10 AT DAL 25(03:24)
(3:24) (Shotgun) E.Elliott right end to DAL 37 for 12 yards (M.Maye).
Prior to the snap, Adams moves from here:
The move appears to be an automatic reaction to the Cowboys’ motion.
Adams is left chasing Tavon Austin’s decoy sweep.
He never gets back into the play or even very close, but does not quit on the play. He’s simply too far away to impact it directly.
1ST & 10 AT DAL 37(02:47)
(2:47) D.Prescott pass incomplete short middle to J.Witten.
Williams calls a corner blitz.
Adams does a pretty good job of picking up Michael Gallup. It’s a tough job, closing from deep while staying alert enough to not be run past, but Gallup is arguably open as he enters his break.
An accurate well-timed pass probably leads to a completion short of the sticks. Instead, likely because his pre-snap read indicated Gallup was doubled, Prescott never looks his way.
2ND & 10 AT DAL 37(02:44)
(2:44) (Shotgun) E.Elliott right end pushed ob at DAL 46 for 9 yards (T.Johnson).
Adams takes about half a false step pursing Austin on the ghost motion.
His ability to read and react to Dallas’s complex exchange in the backfield is impressive. This is literally less than a second later.
From here he simply runs away from Witten’s block while maintaining gap integrity. That’s not as easy at it might seem. Running away from Witten is probably not hard. Running away from Witten while not overrunning his assignment is pretty dang hard.
At the critical moment he puts on the afterburners and positions himself to tackle Elliott.
But he’s overzealous and Elliott and pulling guard Connor Williams are able to clear Adams out of bounds.
Dig his sneaky pete attempt at a strip!
The play is over a couple steps later. Despite the whiffed tackle Adams does a good job overall. He doesn’t pick off any blockers but he does contribute to his team’s ability to constrict the hole and eventually force Elliott out of bounds.
3RD & 1 AT DAL 46(02:12)
(2:12) (Shotgun) D.Prescott pass short left to E.Elliott to NYJ 38 for 16 yards (M.Maye).
Adams is again matched against Witten in man coverage. This time Witten gets a free release.
Adams’ coverage is not sensational. He’s a little beat, and he’s left looking at the receiver rather than the quarterback, but Dak never looks Witten’s way.
1ST & 10 AT NYJ 38(01:34)
(1:34) T.Pollard left guard to NYJ 37 for 1 yard (T.Basham; K.Phillips).
Adams is miles away from anything which happens on this play.
Next play Dallas is flagged for illegal formation. Adams is again not a part of the action.
2ND & 14 AT NYJ 42(00:36)
(:36) (Shotgun) D.Prescott pass short left to C.Wilson to NYJ 32 for 10 yards (D.Roberts).
Adams plays deep covering the tight end.
But he’s able to quickly read who the quarterback is targeting and close on the route. To give you a sense of the speed of his reactions, I circled him and drew a square around the ball in flight.
Adams positions himself perfectly to limit run after the catch.
He even does a good job of anticipating where Wilson would run if he broke the tackle.
3RD & 4 AT NYJ 32(00:01)
(:01) (Shotgun) D.Prescott pass incomplete short left to M.Gallup.
It’s hard to say exactly what Adams was supposed to do here so bear with me. It looks to me like he gets caught chasing Cedrick Wilson and blows underneath coverage on Michael Gallup. Adams is circled.
This leads to Wilson being triple covered while Gallup is one-on-one with corner Darryl Roberts. Amari Cooper only played three snaps meaning Gallup was Dallas’s no. 1 receiver.
But Gallup whiffs an easy reception.
END QUARTER 1
So far Adams is very consistent. He’s sharp in his pre- and post-snap reads, quick to react, and very good at positioning himself to stop long runs and stop yards after catch. Elliott had a very tough assignment picking up Adams blitzing, and so I don’t want to extrapolate too much from that, but Adams clearly forced the low-value underneath target with his pressure. I do not like his positioning on the long target to Gallup which ended the quarter, but I’m not sure exactly what Gregg Williams wanted him to do. I would say it’s doubtful though that he wanted Adams to triple team Wilson. Which makes me think Adams may have a little bit of a proclivity to guess wrong, but hard swings lead to strike outs as well as home runs. I see no evidence yet that Adams is particularly liable to whiff.
Overall, this is a good start. Not once in the quarter did Adams eat lightning and belch thunder, but he consistently did his job.