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How the Seahawks can unlock the best out of Jamal Adams

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Jamal Adams experience has been up and down to this point for the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle sacrificed two first-round picks and a third-rounder to acquire the three-time All Pro safety and a fourth-round pick, which turned into Coby Bryant. Adams’ first season with the Seahawks continued to solidify his case as being one of the league’s premier defenders. He posted a career high 9.5 sacks which led the team, finished third on the team with 83 tackles and was named an All-Pro for the third consecutive year all over the course of 12 games. However, 2021 was a different story as the fifth-year pro registered 0 sacks, 4 tackles for a loss (which was 7 fewer than the prior season) and he did not force a fumble for the first time in his career. He did record a couple of interceptions, his only two to date with Seattle, but had his season cut short due to injury in early December. So, what went wrong for the three time All-Pro safety last season and how can Seattle get the best out of him in 2022?

Reviewing his 2021 season

As highlighted above Adams took a step back last season in multiple areas. The former LSU Tiger only posted 2 QB hits, which was 12 fewer than last season, registered 6 pressures which was 20 fewer than his career high from 2020, and logged a single QB knockdown, 5 less than his 2020 total. He did improve in pass coverage as his completion percentage (per Pro Football Reference) against was 58.8 percent which was 19 percent lower than 2020 mark and his passer rating against was 93.8 which was 10.9 points lower than his 2020 total. Both numbers are higher than what he posted in his final two seasons with the Jets, but they are still areas of improvement, nonetheless. When reviewing Adams’ 2021 stats though there are two numbers that stick out to me more than any. His blitzes went from 98 in 2020 all the way down to 44 in 2021. A drop-off of that size is borderline inexcusable from a play calling standpoint.

One of, if not the best attribute for Adams is getting to the quarterback. To have him do what he is best at; at a rate of 3.6 times a game is puzzling to say the least. The other number that jumped out was his defensive average depth of target of 8.2 yards which was 1.6 yards higher than his 2019 mark which was his career best coverage season. That season he allowed a passer rating of 75.2 which was 54th amongst qualified defenders with 25 or more targets against. Additionally, his yards allowed per target amongst qualified defenders was 8th in the league at 4.9. This past season his allowed passer rating was 93.8, which ranked 138th and his yards allowed per target of 7.8 was tied for 172nd.

How can Seattle get Jamal Adams back to his pre 2021 form?

As a blitzer

On the line of scrimmage as an edge

On these two plays Seattle does a really good job of forcing the offense into a mismatch in blocking Adams. By crowding the line of scrimmage and having every defender on Adams’ side of the line blitz, instead of dropping into coverage the offensive tackle cannot slide out to him and they instead have to take the defender lined up over them. As a result, this forces the offense to block Adams with a running back or tight end which as highlighted in the first video is a rather large mismatch. Jamal Adams with a full head of speed is a borderline impossible blitz pickup for any non-offensive lineman.

An alignment with Adams on the edge also forces confusion for the offense as shown on the second play. Atlanta anticipates that the double mug linebackers are both going to blitz up the A gap, which forces Todd Gurley to step up on the play. However, K.J. Wright drops back into coverage, but with Todd Gurley already stepping up to the A gap to pick up the anticipated extra blitzer Jamal Adams is provided with a free run at Matt Ryan which results in a sack.

Delayed blitzes

Jamal Adams is a smart football player who can do a great job at disguising what he is going to do on the play. On this play we see him take one side step to defend a quick throw. He then slowly comes up as if he was covering the running back on the play and then once the back clears into his route Adams comes downhill with a full head of steam. The pressure applied by K.J. Wright on the play forced Carson Wentz to step up into the pocket and right into Adams’ lap. If the former Jet showed his hand too early, Wentz might’ve recognized him as a blitzer and instead of trying to evade Wright by stepping up he might’ve tried to scramble to his left.

Slot blitzes

Despite being close I consider Adams to be in the slot rather than on the line of scrimmage and in the box on this play. Using him as a slot blitzer is arguably the best way to utilize Adams’ athleticism. He has a rapid first step and as discussed above does a really good job of disguising what he is going to do on the play. Thanks to his play speed he can wait until the last second before the snap to come down hill on a blitz. Adams is also able to maintain his speed throughout the play including when he is navigating traffic. This means if he has to get around a tight end by dipping them, he is going to do so without losing a step as evidenced in the play above.

In coverage

Adams is not a great cover safety when playing deep half or third coverage. However, he can be more than trusted in hook zones in both man and zone coverage where he can come up and punish players in the quick passing game. Adams also has the athletic profile to where he should be able to comfortably erase opposing tight ends which was a reputation he held during his time with the Jets.

As a spy

This year’s schedule sees the Seahawks play Kyler Murray, Trey Lance, Justin Herbert and Russell Wilson, all of whom are quarterbacks that can punish you with their mobility. Herbert does not have the reputation of being an elite mobile quarterback, but if you blitz him with regularity, he will make you regret it as seen in his Sunday Night Football game against the Steelers last season, when he accumulated 90 rushing yards on 9 carries. As a result, Seattle is going to need someone who can contain these quarterbacks who make up roughly 35% of their schedule. With the possibility Adams will be used more often around the line of scrimmage paired with his overall athleticism as highlighted in the first play of the video above, he is a perfect candidate to be the Seahawks QB spy this season.

In the running game

Jamal Adams in the box against the run is a nightmare for opposing defenses as shown in the two plays above. The first play does a great job of highlighting his freakish athleticism as well as his great pursuit. He had no business making a tackle on this play as he was at least four to five yards away from Darrell Henderson when he first received the ball. And yet, he was able to maintain his speed right down the line of scrimmage, navigate traffic and make a touchdown saving tackle on the play. On the second play shown we can see the three-time Pro Bowler stay square to the line of scrimmage once he recognizes that it is a pitch/option play. Then once he sees Cam Newton toss the ball the former LSU Tiger comes downhill to make the tackle. He is definitely aided by the bad pitch from Newton, but he still plays it exactly how it is supposed to be done. If Adams was to immediately come down hill before the pitch was made, he would’ve taken himself completely out of position regardless of whether or not it was a bad pitch.