Now that the 2020 NFL season has officially come to an end with Tampa Bay winning Super Bowl LV earlier this month, it's time to look ahead to the offseason that will help shape Seattle's success in the 2021 season. With free agency beginning next month, and the draft to follow later in the spring, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where the team stands. So far we've covered the offensive and defensive lines, tight end, linebacker and running back, and today we take a look at where things stand at defensive back. Tomorrow we'll turn our attention to receiver.
The Seahawks made a big splash last summer, adding All-Pro safety Jamal Adams in a trade with the Jets, and aside from missing four games with a groin injury, Adams delivered in a big way, recording 9.5 sacks, an NFL record for a defensive back, and providing playmaking ability all over the field. Adams also showed a ton of toughness, playing through multiple injuries, including two broken fingers and a torn labrum in his shoulder, injuries that required multiple offseason surgery.
And Adams wasn't Seattle's only Pro-Bowl safety thanks to the play of free safety Quandre Diggs, who recorded a career-best and team-leading five interceptions in his first full season with Seattle.
At cornerback, the Seahawks came into the season with Shaquill Griffin back at left corner and Tre Flowers and Quinton Dunbar competing at right cornerback. Dunbar, an offseason trade acquisition, opened the season as the starter, but his season was cut short by a knee injury. After taking over that role, Flowers was playing some of the best football of his career when a hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve. Fortunately for the Seahawks, D.J. Reed, a summer waiver claim, played very well taking over that job, and showed he could be an option to start at cornerback going forward depending on what happens in free agency. Reed turned out to be a bright spot after joining the team from the non-football injury list midway through the year, starting games at left and right cornerback and nickel corner while also handling return duties.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, Marquise Blair, a standout in training camp after moving to the nickel spot, tore his ACL in Week 2, but the good news was that Ugo Amadi was more than capable filling that role the rest of the year. Blair's return in 2021 should provide a big boost for the defense considering how impressive he was in camp prior to the injury.
Biggest question to answer this offseason: Who starts at cornerback?
Griffin, a starter since his rookie season, is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins, as is Dunbar, meaning the Seahawks could potentially be having to replace both of their Week 1 starters from last year. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the hope is to have both players back, but acknowledged, "We'll have some work to do on the corner spots because we've got some free agency going on there."
The good news for the Seahawks is that they will have Flowers and Reed back, two players with starting experience, should Griffin or Dunbar leave in free agency.
The nickel role will also be one to watch. Blair would presumably be the favorite there once he's fully healthy, but Amadi played very well last season and the Seahawks will probably want to find ways to get him on the field one way or another.
Biggest reason for optimism in 2021: Blair's return & the talent at safety.
As mentioned earlier, Blair was one of the biggest standouts in training camp, making plays on almost a daily basis that had him right up there with the likes of Adams, DK Metcalf, Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner as the most impressive players in camp.
Presuming he gets back to that level, Blair should provide a big boost to the defense in 2021 whether in the same nickel role or if the Seahawks decide to find other ways to use him. And one of the biggest reasons the Seahawks tried Blair in the nickel role in the first place is the talent they have at safety, his natural position. With both Adams and Diggs coming off of Pro-Bowl seasons, and versatile defensive backs such as Blair, Amadi and Ryan Neal also able to play safety, the Seahawks have a ton of talent and depth on the back end of their defense.
"We're getting Marquise back, which is a big, big deal for us," Carroll said. "I mean he's such a big factor. To get him back in action to add with the guys we had, Diggsey and the way Jamal played, wow it's an exciting group there. We'll have some work to do on the corner spots because we've got some free agency going on there. Shaquill we'd love to keep him with us, and then Quinton's one of the guys, and D.J. came through too, so there's a lot of real positive things on the defensive side (that we're) excited about."
A look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks safety Jamal Adams from the 2020 season.