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What to watch at Safety as training camp approaches

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Barely two weeks remain until the Seattle Seahawks report for training camp on July 25, and the offseason brought no shortage of discussion regarding the future of the safety position for the team. From discussions regarding whether the Hawks could move on from Jamal Adams, to what the additions of Julian Love and Jerrick Reed will mean for the back end of a defense entering its second season under defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt.

Obviously, the big goal for the Seattle defense is to reduce opponent scoring, and in 2023 that will mean attempting to finish in the top ten in points allowed for the first time since the Kris Richard era. Since Richard was shown the door after the 2017 defense finished 13th in the NFL in points allowed, the Seahawks defenses have finished:

in points allowed. Between cornerbacks that enter the 2023 season significantly more experienced than in 2022, the addition of fifth overall pick in the draft Devon Witherspoon and the potential return of Jamal Adams, there is certainly reason for optimism for improvement in the secondary. In addition, with the group entering its second season under Hurtt, there should be more familiarity and fewer busted coverages compared to 2022.

On area in particular that bears watching through training camp and into the regular season is how often the defense uses post-snap safety rotations in their efforts to confound and confuse offenses. Much gets made of the two-high looks of the Vic Fangio defense, but the reality is that Fangio systems will historically play about the same amount of single high safety as two high safeties, with the uniqueness coming from how often the defense rotates out of a two high look post snap.

Readily visible is that many of the teams that disguise their coverage with post-snap rotations are those whose defensive coordinators come from the Fangio tree. Just a small sampling of these are:

In any case, the Seahawks clock in on the other side of the spectrum, giving the quarterback the safety look they showed prior to the snap on more than 80% of plays. That fact leads into several questions regarding what drove the processes that led to playing in such a way. Was it the loss of Adams in Week 1? Was it simplifying things for an inexperienced group of cornerbacks? Was it learning a new system and looking to minimize mistakes as players progressed through the learning curve?

Obviously, if the decisions were based on new players being in a new system with new reads, then the addition of Witherspoon, Love and Reed could mean a situation in which the Seahawks continue to simply show the coverage they intend to play the majority of the time. In contrast, if it was due to personnel and lacking the flexibility that they felt the group needed in Adams’ absence, then it’s possible Love and Reed could fill in those gaps to allow the coaching staff the comfort to explore more post-snap rotations.

What that all means is that it’s safe to say that it will be important to pay particular attention to the safety group during training camp and the preseason. Not just for glimpses into what the depth chart could look like, but for indications as to how the personnel could be used during the season. Will a three-safety nickel package be the new base defense? How much will the safeties be asked to help in run support, especially if the defense continues to use light boxes to entice the opponent to go to their ground game? How will the safeties hold up physically following a season that saw not just Adams, but his backup, Ryan Neal, miss time due to injury as well? Will Quandre Diggs continue the strong play he showed at the end of the 2022 season after crossing into the dark side of the age 30? How will Adams look as he returns from an injury that is often a career ender?