As a second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Marquise Blair figured to have a major role in the Seattle Seahawks secondary. Through a combination of an unfortunate knee injury and the depth ahead of him, that has yet to materialize.
In his rookie season, Blair essentially only saw extended playing time on defense due to injury. Through six games he only played 12 defensive snaps. Blair replaced Bradley McDougald and started against the Baltimore Ravens, then he subbed in for Quandre Diggs (after Tedric Thompson went to IR) for two more starts as Diggs nursed a hamstring issue he had while with the Detroit Lions. Once Diggs and McDougald were both healthy, Blair only played 27 defensive snaps for the remainder of the season (playoffs included). Blair’s apparent struggle to learn the playbook was the main reason he didn’t see more action.
Entering his second season, Blair was the team’s starting nickel corner while McDougald was jettisoned for Jamal Adams. As you know by now, Blair tore his ACL in Week 2 against the New England Patriots and his season was over. One of the major storylines for the Seahawks defense was the development of Blair’s replacement, Ugo Amadi, who’s play frankly should justify keeping him in the slot.
The Seahawks secondary is in a tricky spot. It’s very possible they don’t re-sign Shaquill Griffin or Quinton Dunbar and thus will need another outside corner. Amadi has played well enough to remain a slot corner, while D.J. Reed impressed as a CB2 but is not the ideal CB1 for Pete Carroll’s system. Reed is also a nickel option and indeed he replaced an injured Amadi before switching to the outside.
At safety, Quandre Diggs was arguably the most consistent member of the secondary but he’s also a free agent after 2021 and is one of the few assets the Seahawks have for any major trade. I’d rather not see that happen but Diggs will be 30 and Seattle might be hesitant to give him another deal for that reason.
Meanwhile, Jamal Adams’ contract extension looms but if they don’t extend him then that really makes the trade look terrible. Giving up that much draft capital only to let him walk would be insane.
A name whom I’ve not even mentioned up to this point is Ryan Neal, who is technically a free agent but as an Exclusive Rights Free Agent there’s no reason to believe he’s going anywhere. He fared well in Adams’ absence and even picked up a game-ending interception in his team debut. Neal also has been quite valuable on special teams, blocking a punt that resulted in a safety.
One would assume that through 2021, Diggs and Adams will remain the starting safety pairing, with Neal as depth. Amadi commanded his nickel role well and Reed can play there too. Safe to say this worrisome spot from 2019 is no longer a weakness. On the outside, everything is up in the air but one would assume Reed should remain the CB2.
So what do you do with Blair?
I’m intrigued by his potential but his defensive film is so limited that it’s hard to make any strong conclusions either way about his overall abilities. He’s a safety by trade but transitioned to slot corner and at present hasn’t earned a starting role at either spot.
Assuming Blair is ready for the start of next regular season we could see formations where three safeties are on the field and, say, Adams is lined up down in the box while Blair is in coverage. As a taller, more physical, and more agile athlete than Amadi we may see him rotate in Amadi or Reed’s place against bigger receivers in the slot.
I’d consider the abundance of talent at nickel and safety a good problem for Seattle. They have a lot of options already explored in Blair’s absence and now he’s back in the equation. The team certainly needs to find out sooner rather than later if he should get an increased role in the defense.