Since the Seahawks opened camp on Wednesday, second-year safety Marquise Blair has found himself in a new role.
The move wasn't unexpected, it was one Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had talked excitedly about on a couple of occasions during the offseason, but expected or not, playing as the nickel defensive back instead of as a free or strong safety was new to Blair.
Asked about his level of experience in that nickel role, Blair quickly answered, "None. I only played safety."
But while there are differences from playing as a safety in the middle of the field to covering a receiver or tight end in the slot, Blair notes that most of the rules in terms of coverage are the same. He also feels like he has all the attributes to thrive in that role.
"I feel like I can cover, I feel like I can blitz, I can fit run gaps, just everything that a nickel does," he said.
Carroll has made it clear Blair still has to earn the nickel role, competing with fellow 2019 draft pick Ugo Amadi, among others, but early in camp it's clear that the three-safety nickel package of Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Blair and two cornerbacks has a real chance to be a big part of Seattle's defense.
"We are really pumped about this camp to figure that part out," Carroll said last week. "For the most part, we have to figure out Marquise. He's the one that's going to get the opportunity to get in on the slot and do some stuff that puts him in a position to be really active and be part of the pressure packaging and some really aggressive parts of the play, so that's cool for him… I'm thrilled to be putting this thing together. We won't know for some time now, but I can picture it and I can't wait to see this come to life."
Blair said making the change from free safety, where he primarily played last year, to nickel involves "just re-learning everything" and added, "safety is more you're thinking about run. Nickel, we're in for the pass."
Among those who have helped Blair with the transition is Amadi, his primary competition for the job, as well as safety Quandre Diggs, who played nickel for part of his time in Detroit. Another helpful voice in Blair's ear this offseason was that of Seahawks Legend Kam Chancellor, who attended some of the offseason workouts in the area that Blair participated in along with some other current and former Seahawks.
"Just to stay in the playbook," Blair said. "He told me, don't move around before the ball is snapped, get lined up so you know what's going on. Just little stuff like that."
And even though Blair is learning a new position this camp, in some ways he feels more comfortable having gone through his rookie season.
"Everything was brand new to me (last year), so really it's just re-learning everything," he said. "I feel like it's easier… I knew what I was doing, but you still don't want to mess up. Now I'm just rolling."
Photos from the 3rd practice of Seahawks 2020 Training Camp, held on Friday, August 14 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Seahawks Training Camp is presented by Safeway.