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Jamal Adams: The Good, the Bad, and the Injured

Wild Card Round - Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

With the first week of Seahawks training camp wrapped up, many fans were happy to see Jamal Adams on the field, even as a non-participant. As Mookie reported on Tuesday, the team and Adams are a fair distance apart on contract talks, but things seem at least outwardly to be going well. The fact that talks are happening in good faith is positive news, as Jamal Adams quickly emerged as a playmaker and vocal leader on a Seahawks defensive unit that finished 11th in weighted DVOA, per Football Outsiders. And of course we all know how productive he was at getting after passers last year. But playing a position that is typically more associated with pass breakups than QB takedowns, how valuable is Jamal Adams as a safety? How valuable is Jamal Adams as a Football Player? Looking at his season in review might give us some clues as to what we should expect now and after he inks his first extension and becomes the highest paid safety in the league.

The Good

When the front office made the aggressive move to trade with New York last July, I bought into the hype and thought that Kam 2.0 had unofficially landed in Seattle. However, the LSU standout and former New York Jet is a complex and multifaceted player, and he quickly proved that — while he does share his predecessor’s hard-hitting style and fearlessness in the box — he brings other unique dimensions to Pete Carroll and Ken Norton’s defense, as well. Plays like the one below are among the many reasons that John Schneider was willing to pick up the phone and call New Jersey with an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Number 33’s uncanny amalgam of speed, instincts, and pursuit are the stuff of dreams for fans, coaches, and players alike. Performances like the one above serve to remind us all that Jamal Adams can make momentum-shifting plays look routine, with myriad game defining tackles and drive killing sacks abound in his 2020 campaign. And for more great team effort on defense, here is THE highlight from the Seahawks’ November victory over the Cardinals. Jamal expertly splits Deandre Hopkins and Andy Isabella, keeping his eyes on Murray but maintaining integrity in his assignment, doing his part while Carlos Dunlap swoops in for his second and final sack of the evening.

Further pinpointing what Adams really means to the Seattle defense, here is a clip of Field Gulls’ own Samuel Gold detailing how the Hawks beat the Falcons offense in week one, thanks in part to number 33’s unreal performance.

The Bad

A large portion of the criticism levied against Jamal Adams last season related to his pass coverage — which should be paramount in any DB’s skillset. While it feels a bit overly critical to poke holes in the game of a player who set the single season sack-record for DBs last season, it is fair to acknowledge the well-documented — albeit a bit overblown — coverage struggles that plagued Adams in 2020.

To be entirely fair, Stefon Diggs embarrassed a lot of defensive backs last year as the Bills rode his career season to an AFC East title and a trip to the AFC Championship game. But the fact remains that players of Jamal Adams’ caliber are expected to consistently compete — and win — in marquee matchups like this.

There are some moments that are simply confusing, too; moments like the one below, where Adams looked schematically lost and out of position — in the red zone. This is obviously concerning, but we can also chalk this up as a poorly timed misstep for a first year player in a new scheme. Hopefully a full offseason in Seattle will see plays like this minimized in ‘21.

Jamal Adams had a productive but unquestionably turbulent first season in Seattle, with highlights and struggles well documented. If the Seahawks intend to make him the highest paid Safety in the NFL, they need to be confident that he can clean up these coverage inconsistencies and continue to evolve as a well-rounded defensive playmaker in year two and beyond. And I doubt they have much reason to be concerned; Adams struggled with injures for more or less the entirety of 2020, playing in thirteen games (including playoffs) while battling through a litany of conditions that kept him out of four contests entirely and resulted in multiple surgeries following the conclusion of the year... Which leads us to our next section.

The Injured

How much did injuries impact Adams in 2020? Below is one of the many critiqued and analyzed plays from Seattle’s Wild Card loss to Los Angeles.

Much like when an injured Quinton Dunbar played against Buffalo with worst case scenario results, Jamal Adams suiting up in the Wild Card round was a risky strategy that quite predictably backfired for team and player. But still, seeing Jamal Adams play with severe limitations in a soul-crushing home loss in the playoffs was a bitter reminder that even the toughest and best players cannot and should not play through injuries. This particular clip feels like a microcosm of several other moments throughout the season where Adams just didn’t look quite right. Hopefully he will enter the coming season healthy and ready to go after missing more time in 2020 than he had in his entire career thus far, having only sat for two games previously — both in 2019.

The Future

It is both fair and reasonable to give Adams the benefit of the doubt and assume that his struggles last season were more likely an aberration than a regression. Jamal Adams has been in the NFL for four years, and in his first three, he demonstrated not only coverage competency but coverage mastery. Here is a clip of him blanketing the typically un-coverable Rob Gronkowski in 2018.

And this isn’t just a thing of the past. Here he is doing similar things to George Kittle last season.

As a side note, it is great to see KJ teaming up with Jamal to create a big third down stop, and hopefully we will get to see them playing together once again if/when Wright makes his glorious return to Lumen Field.

Looking at all of these plays — the Good, the Bad, and the Injured — a vivid painting of Jamal Adams, the football player, begins to materialize. We know that Adams can get after the quarterback. We know that Adams can deliver hits. We have seen Jamal use his instincts and sideline-to-sideline speed to erase tight ends and running backs from the field. And we’ve seen a player who has no history in the city of Seattle come to Lumen field and deliver statement after statement, playing with poise and passion as a young leader on a maligned defense that grew into its own as the season progressed. But with this knowledge, we are also aware that Adams has tendencies that may sometimes lead to mistakes in coverage, blown assignments, or schematic breakdowns that yield chunk plays to the opposing offense. But in this, I see optimism; these are fixable problems. As Jamal continues to grow and mature, he won’t lose his instincts that make him so dangerous, but he can get better at the other stuff. And hopefully he will continue to do so as a Seahawks for many years to come.