With Seahawks training camp kicking off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2022 season. Today, we take a look at how the new-look defense should benefit Seattle's Pro Bowl safety duo. Check back Monday when we look at running back, a position with a few questions to answer, most notably that of Chris Carson's future.
As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll addressed his players in the final team meeting of last month's minicamp, he talked a bit about some of the changes that were coming to the team's defense.
With Clint Hurtt taking over at defensive coordinator and with Sean Desai and Karl Scott joining the staff as associate head coach-defense and defensive passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach, respectively, the defense is expected to undergo its most significant change from a schematic standpoint since Carroll and John Schneider took over the team in 2010.
Up front, things will be different with the Seahawks implementing a 3-4 front (three down linemen, four linebackers) in its base defense, but as Carroll told his team, some of the biggest changes will come on the back end of the defense.
"What we have done in the biggest way is we have found our ways to make our stuff fit our guys that we have in our secondary," Carroll told his players in a clip that can be seen in the second episode of The Sound. "The coverage stuff that we're doing, it's smart and aggressive and physical and on attack, it features the guys who know the way we want to play. You guys know it, I know you can feel it, I know you understand, this needs to come to light.
"(Opposing offenses) are not going to know what we're playing or when we're playing it. We're going to (mess) with them in every chance we can get so that we can be as aggressive as we've ever been, and I'm fired up to cut you guys loose in that thought."
And while the plan is for those changes to benefit everyone in the entire defense, the prevailing wisdom is that the player who could get the most out of a defense striving to be both aggressive and confusing to opposing offenses is safety Jamal Adams. Adams was a Pro-Bowler and second-team All-Pro in his first season with the Seahawks two years ago when he recorded an NFL defensive-back record 9.5 sacks, and while he did a lot of things well in 2021, that sack production disappeared in part due to injuries and his role, and in part due to teams putting a lot of resources to stopping Adams when he was near the line of scrimmage.
So it's no surprise that in his first press conference as defensive coordinator, Hurtt made note of the need to get the most out of Adams.
"Jamal is still a difference maker," Hurtt said earlier this offseason after being promoted to defensive coordinator. "How we use him, that's going to be on me. It's our responsibility, my responsibility to make sure we put him in positions so he can be at his very best, and we know how great he is at doing that. The other side of it though, and to his credit, as the season progressed, we put him in situations that really was not his background, so you have to give him some leeway in understanding that he was in a new world last year with some of the things he was doing, playing a quarter safety or half field safety and the adjustments he had to make along the way. And he really improved in that aspect throughout the course of the season. He's going to continue to get better, and obviously there's multiple things he's got to be able to do so the quarterback can't always peg him for just being one particular type of way. Jamal is a smart enough guy that he understands, it's not just going to be about his ability to blitz and run fit and do those types of things, it's the different techniques and coverages that he has to play, but making sure it's something that he's really exceptional at besides just rushing the quarterback and blitzing."
Both Adams and Quandre Diggs, Pro-Bowl selection each of the past two seasons, have spoken in glowing terms this offseason about how the defense should help them and the defense be at their best.
"You can disguise everything, you can move around, I can be in the box sometimes, I can be in a back end sometimes, I can be blitzing, whatever the case may be," Adams said. "So it's a really creative defense, and I'm just looking forward to it."
Said Diggs, "It's multiple with the different coverages you can run and make it all look alike. You can do a single-high shell and run different coverages, you can do a two-high shell and run different deals. You can't tell which safety is in the box, which safety is not in the box. I think it's going to be dope. You guys will see—I'm not going to give everything away—but I think you guys will see real soon.
"I think it's going to help both of us. Guys can't automatically tag (Adams) and say he's in the box and he's blitzing and slide his way…. You don't know the coverages, you don't know what we're in, you don't know what checks we have. I think that's going to be dope."
Safety play has always been important in Carroll-led defenses, and it figures to be a strength of the Seahawks given the talents of Adams and Diggs, especially with the trio of Hurtt, Desai and Scott all working to maximize the impact those two can have on games. And while a lot of focus will be on how this defense helps get the most out of Adams, he and everyone else involved knows the goal is create playmaking abilities for everyone on the field.
"You can be so creative in so many ways, and not just me," Adams said. "… We can all do everything in the back end to where we can be creative and give offenses problems, and that's the goal."
Another important thing for the Seahawks to sort out in camp is the depth behind their Pro-Bowl duo at safety. Ryan Neal has proven himself as a more-than-capable option behind Adams each of the past two seasons and seems a sure thing to be the top backup again this year, but beyond that it's hard to figure what the safety depth will look like. Veteran Josh Jones has the most experience and played well in one start at the end of the season, and the Seahawks also have in Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair two players who are listed as safeties, but who have spent most of the past two seasons in the nickel corner role. Depending on what happens in that competition with Justin Coleman signing in the offseason, one or both of those players could be back in the mix more at safety. The Seahawks also added four rookie safeties as undrafted free agents, signing Joey Blount, Bubba Bolden, Scott Nelson and Deontai Williams, at least one of whom could be a real threat to make the 53-man roster.