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Marquise Blair’s lackluster preseason should put him on Seahawks’ roster bubble

NFL: Preseason-Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a great tackle by Seattle Seahawks rookie Tariq Woolen.

Also in the same video was one of four missed tackles by Marquise Blair, who was playing at safety in the Seahawks’ preseason loss to the Chicago Bears. That doesn’t really begin to describe how much Blair struggled, but one play in particular irks me the most.

(Editor’s note: Video removed so just go the 4:39 on the timestamp in this clip)

The live shot won’t show it, but the replay made it very clear that Blair’s personal foul penalty was deserved; Blair crashed into Bears receiver Isaiah Coulter with a helmet-to-helmet shot. I am not saying Blair is a dirty player but he as at the bare minimum reckless, and this is a weakness of his that dates back to when he was at Utah. Here’s a quip from our old Field Gulls pal Matty F. Brown’s scouting report on Blair back in 2019:

Live by the sword…

Die by the sword. (Or a weapon that assassins use, IDK) Players who play football ferociously are more susceptible to tackling misses, dangerous plays and ejections; Blair was ejected from two college games in 2018. The NFL lacks the stringent, sometimes harsh targeting rules of college football. Blair’s tape had aiming point plus footwork issues and Blair can refine his tackling technique.

It’s often forgotten that last year, on the same series in which he suffered his unfortunate second straight season-ending knee injury, Blair committed a critical roughing the passer penalty on Jameis Winston that was so needless when a simple wrap-up would’ve sufficed.

I understand that the injuries have prevented him from seeing the field over the past two years, but we’re in year four and Blair’s bad habits have not come remotely close to being eradicated. Pete Carroll has been very critical of the poor tackling by Seahawks defenders, and just by the numbers Blair is among the worst offenders.

The idea and potential of Blair has seldom met the reality of who he’s been in his limited playing time. The Seahawks coaching staff gave up on that idea of playing him at his natural safety position after his rookie season. He was a healthy scratch on a few occasions and even with what looked like a promising start against the Baltimore Ravens, Carroll stopped short of saying he’s not ready for primetime.

“I caught him (out of position) a few times, and I have to look at the film to really know, but for the most part he came through and he did fine,” Carroll said (via Seattle Times). “He had a couple of nice plays and was good playing the ball one-on-one. He seemed to hold up his edge. It was a pretty basic game for us in that regard, in what he had to do.

In hindsight, moving Blair from safety to nickel shouldn’t have been cause for excitement, it should’ve had the alarm bells ringing. Seattle horrendously botched the slot corner position the year prior and in lieu of getting an actual corner, they re-assigned the former second-round pick.

Blair is in a contract year and he went from a possible successor to Earl Thomas (or Kam Chancellor, given he could’ve played either safety spot) to someone who’s fighting just to be an extra cornerback. It’s very possible that if Sidney Jones and Artie Burns are the favorites to start on the outside, rookie Coby Bryant may end up being the slot man over both Blair and Justin Coleman (who himself has struggled this preseason). Josh Jones and (when he’s healthy again) Ryan Neal figure to be the top two choices for safety depth behind Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, further calling into question what Blair’s role on this team actually is.

The saving grace for Blair is that he seems to be impactful on special teams, as evidenced by his forced fumbles in the Atlanta Falcons regular season game in 2020 and the opening kickoff last week against Chicago. That might very well be his niche and while that’s fine, you don’t want to have top-50 draft picks top out as special teams gunners. For now, I think his ongoing struggles with missed tackles and overrunning plays put his future with the team on the bubble. Until his fundamentals get better, he’s not shown enough to justify being a regular part of the Seahawks’ defensive rotation.