“He’s a safety and he’s listed as a safety, but he has a lot of versatility, especially at the line of scrimmage, to what you can do with him — whether that’s as a pass-rusher, whether that’s in coverage or in run support,” Olsen said. “It’s almost kind of very similar to a tight end offensively, where you kind of can wear a different hat on every play and if you have a guy that can handle those different roles, you can really get creative in how you use them.”
About 90 minutes after Olsen spoke with reporters via video conference Tuesday, Adams made him look like Tony Romo.
• How Chiefs re-signed their top players
• Steelers bond, talk smack over Spikeball
• Rodgers’ exit clue in Clark’s contract?
• Can Giants’ TE Engram reach potential?
• Bears’ Mack: “I wasn’t good enough.”
During a goal-line period early in practice, Adams helped stop an outside run when he took on pulling left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and stood him up despite being almost 100 pounds lighter. Moments later, he shot free through the line with a perfectly timed blitz for what would have been a sack in an actual game.
The Seahawks love the attitude and energy Adams brings to a team that has lost some of its edge. More than anything, they love his ability to impact games in multiple ways like he did in the span of a few plays Tuesday.
The biggest criticism of the deal the Seahawks made to acquire Adams from the New York Jets last month was that they gave up too much (a pair of first-round picks and then some) for a player at a non-premium position. It’s understandable.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the four other players to be traded for multiple first-rounders since 2009 were a cornerback (Jalen Ramsey), a left tackle (Laremy Tunsil), a pass-rusher (Khalil Mack) and a quarterback (Jay Cutler) — all positions that the NFL tends to deem more important than safety.
Part of the Seahawks’ justification for the high price they paid is that Adams is more than just a safety. In the words of one NFL talent evaluator, he’s a “chess piece.”
The Seahawks believe Adams is more versatile — and a better player overall — than Earl Thomas II and Kam Chancellor given his ability to cover tight ends, impact the running game with his physicality and get after the quarterback as a blitzer. Whereas Chancellor’s range and athleticism were somewhat limited because of his bigger frame, the Seahawks envision Adams matching up on the likes of George Kittle and Tyler Higbee, athletic NFC West tight ends who have given Seattle trouble.
While Adams has never been known as a ballhawk — he has two interceptions in three seasons — he’s been good enough in coverage over his career to allow the fourth-lowest completion percentage (50.4%) among safeties as the nearest defender, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
With as much of a question mark as Seattle’s pass rush is, maybe Adams’ most intriguing tool is what he can do as a blitzer. His 12 career sacks include 6.5 last season, which was two more than any other NFL defensive back. His 32 career QB pressures are second-most by a defensive back in that span, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
“That’s all instincts, really,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s instinct and savvy and just his general attitude. He’s really an aggressive player. I thought one of the best blitzers I ever coached was Lawyer Milloy, and it was all about his attitude and it was just his attack mentality. You see that very much in Jamal.”
The Seahawks have not been a heavy blitzing team under Carroll, whose defense is built around not allowing big plays, thus less apt than others to take a defender out of coverage. From 2012 to 2018, they finished between 20th (25.5%) and 28th (18.5%) in blitz percentage, according to ESPN charting. That is defined as the percentage of opponent dropbacks on which the defense sends five or more pass-rushers. They were 19th (24.3%) last year as they fielded one of the league’s least-effective pass rushes, even with Jadeveon Clowney finishing fifth in individual Pass Rush Win Rate.
Even without Clowney or any other obvious primary threat, the Seahawks believe they have enough firepower on their defensive line to mount a credible pass rush (though one player they’re counting on, rookie second-round pick Darrell Taylor, has yet to practice because of a leg injury from his final college season). They also believe they can scheme their way to more pressure than they generated last year by being more aggressive.
That could mean less two-gapping and more of a priority on getting their defensive lineman up-field. It could also mean sending Adams after the quarterback more than they’ve done with previous safeties, especially if their front four isn’t getting enough pressure on its own.
Adams’ blitzing ability would ideally be a luxury for Seattle. It might be more of a necessity.
“Everyone saw what he did in New York,” Olsen said, “you can send him after the quarterback and he can rush the passer and get there and get home.”