It’s only been one game, but Jamal Adams has seemingly already exceeded the incredible expectations that were laid upon him after being shipped to Seattle last month.
Racking up one sack, two TFLs, two PBU’s, two QB hits, and 13 tackles while playing every single defensive snap, here are four key areas where he shined last Sunday.
One of the main sticking points in Adams' evaluation is that he’s more than “just” a safety. Proving to be one of the league's top blitzers throughout his three-year career, his ability to create havoc in the backfield is comparable to that of a defensive end, albeit at a fraction of the size. Thankfully on Sunday, Seattle used him in this same capacity, drawing up diabolical plays off of the edge that allowed him to be his complete self.
Screaming off the edge on a multitude of snaps, Adams racked up four pressures on just 11 pass-rushing reps—which was good for an astounding 36% pressure rate. Adding a sack and two tackles for loss alongside these pressures, Adams also showcased his elite bend on a routine basis, providing the team with a “Troy Polamalu-Esque” presence.
This usage was extremely encouraging, as Adams’ 11 rushes were the most by a Seattle safety in the entire Pete Carroll era. Seattle also blitzed more on average than they typically do, something that was no doubt heavily impacted by Adams’ arrival.
The pass-rush plays were splashy, but Adams was also extremely dependable from a coverage standpoint on Sunday. Somehow mistaken for a box safety by the majority of casual fans, Adams reaffirmed against Atlanta that he can be relied upon in space, mainly because of his fluidity and elite football IQ.
Playing limited single-high reps extremely effectively, Adams adapted to Seattle's Cover-3 scheme seamlessly, knowing exactly when to trigger downhill, play deep, cover the flat, or even take opposing wideouts on crossers.
In constant communication with his linebackers, specifically K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner, Adams also handled assignment exchanges extremely well, something that is crucial for a Cover-3 buzz defender like himself. He did have one bump in with Shaquill Griffin that led to a Falcons touchdown, but that was more of an unfortunate occurrence rather than an actual coverage breakdown. Other than that, he executed his coverage responsibilities with flawless precision.
There’s a certain type of physicality and swagger that Adams brings on every snap, and although I’m not sure it's quantifiable, it no doubt affects every player out on the football field. It’s this elite intensity—something Seattle hasn’t had since Earl Thomas—that makes Adams such an easy player to root for. Despite Adams playing with this “hair on fire” mentality, however, he’s also an extremely dependable tackler, proving to be shockingly efficient and reliable in this regard. When you combine these two skills, as Adams demonstrated on Sunday, it creates for an elite downhill defender.
Dominating in the flat and on quick developing crossers in the middle portions of the field, Adams was a triggering monster against Atlanta, finishing nearly every play in his mile-long radius. In particular, there were two plays—one on a drag against Julio Jones and the other on Todd Gurley in the flat—that showcased this type of dependable aggression perfectly. It’s not easy to play two seemingly opposite styles like his at once, but in Week 1—and throughout his entire career—Adams has been able to find a way.
Versatility was referenced a bit when talking about his pass-rush skills, but Adams is so versatile it honestly deserves to be included twice in this piece.
A safety, edge rusher, linebacker, and big nickel corner all rolled into one, Adams is a Swiss-Army knife of possibilities. Thankfully for a Seattle scheme that primarily played an unimaginative style of base defense last year, they decided to tap into this unique arsenal in Week 1. Using a much higher blitz % than in years past, the Seahawks got extremely creative with their looks, often rushing Adams, Bobby Wagner, and even Griffin a few times from their respective spots. Adams’ presence also opened up some four-safety looks with Quandre Diggs, Marquise Blair, and Delano Hill, something that was never used last year, but proved to be extremely successful in Atlanta’s obvious passing situations.
We talk so much about how important it is for Seattle to let Russell Wilson “cook” on the offensive side of the ball, as it’s crucial that the organization recognizes his unique skill set and uses it to its full potential. Well, the same concept should apply for Adams on the defensive end. After a masterful Week 1 performance that had him line up virtually everywhere, so far so good.