With Seahawks training camp kicking off next week, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2023 season. So far we've looked at special teams, tight end, the defensive line, running back, linebacker, the offensive line, receiver, cornerback, and quarterback. Today, we wrap things up with a look at safety.
Key Safety Departures: Ryan Neal (signed with Tampa Bay), Josh Jones (unsigned free agent).
Sitting at a table with reporters in a conference room at the Arizona Biltmore hotel, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll felt the need to address the elephant in the room—or at least in the defensive backs room.
Yes, the Seahawks signed one of the best safeties available in free agency in Julian Love, and yes, they already employed two of the best, not to mention highest-paid, safeties in the NFL in Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. But no, Love's signing didn't have anything to do with Adams' or Diggs' future. It was a just a case of the Seahawks seeing Love as too good of a player not to acquire, adding talent to an already strong position.
"I know there's some conversation about what we did with Julian, does that have some impact on Jamal or Quandre?" Carroll said in March at the NFL Annual Meeting not long after Seattle signed Love. "It doesn't. We have a clear thought of what we're going to do with our guys and how we want to play them, and we feel very fortunate to have all of our guys."
That clear thought, Carroll went on to explain, involves Love joining Diggs and Adams on the field for three-safety packages that ideally would be a significant part of Seattle's defensive plans. Carroll said the plan was "absolutely" for all three to play together, then when asked if that meant them playing, say, 25 percent of the team's defensive snaps together, Carroll quickly said, "Oh no, they'll play together a lot more than that."
And while Love is new to Seattle, the idea of playing three safeties at once is not. Carroll and his coaching staff used a "big nickel" package in 2017 when, in a similar situation to this offseason, they signed a former starter in Bradley McDougald, adding him to a secondary that already included two Pro-Bowl safeties: Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Last season, the Seahawks spent training camp working on a new-look defense that included a lot of Adams playing close to the line of scrimmage in a linebacker-type role while Diggs and Josh Jones, who had taken over for an injured Ryan Neal, played the two more traditional safety roles. Unfortunately, Adams suffered a season-ending injury in a season-opening win over Denver, so that defensive plan was never fully unveiled.
This season, with Adams and Love both providing a ton of versatility while Diggs gives Seattle one of the best deep safeties in the NFL, the Seahawks have a chance to do some very creative—and they hope disruptive—things with their three-safety looks.
Of course, for the Seahawks to use that three-safety package, they need all three of those players available, and it's still uncertain with camp approaching when Adams will be back from his torn quadriceps tendon. Throughout the offseason, reports coming back from Dallas, where Adams lives, as well as his visits to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, were positive, but his injury is a serious enough one that there's still some uncertainty whether or not he'll be available for the start of the season.
"I think range of motion is pretty good, but I think we're talking about strength right now," Carroll said last month. "And it's just time on task, and so it's really clear and he's got really good guys he's working with back home. And so being here was really important that we saw him. We visited him a couple of times down in Dallas. And so he's a great competitor. He's going to do everything he can to get it right. As soon as he can be right, he'll be right.
While the Seahawks obviously hope to have Adams back as soon as possible, the addition of Love is a nice luxury that gives the Seahawks two high-end safeties on the back end of their defense even if Adams isn't on the field.
"He's been fantastic," Carroll said after last month's minicamp. "I think he's 26 or something, he's a young kid still, a young man still. But he's like he's been around forever. He's got great sense, great awareness, presence. He totally gets football, it makes sense to him, he's an excellent communicator, really a gifted smooth athlete with real quickness, and that comes from really great instincts. He looked great. I know that it's been obvious to Quandre that he's got a guy that really can command what's going on. So they're sharing the duties and working together and growing. He's another guy who made a great first impression on us."
Behind the trio of Diggs, Adams and Love, the Seahawks also have some intriguing young talent to provide depth at safety. Seattle selected Jerrick Reed II in this year's draft, a late-round pick who received a lot of praise from general manager John Schneider after the draft, and more from Carroll after making a good early impression in offseason workouts. Joey Blount, who made the team last year as an undrafted free agent, was a standout on special teams who could compete for a role on defense this year, and the Seahawks signed multiple safeties after this year's draft, including Penn State's Jonathan Sutherland, who, according to Carroll, was one of the undrafted rookies who "really stood out" in offseason workouts.
Take a look at photos of safety Jerrick Reed II during his three years at the University of New Mexico. Reed was selected by the Seahawks with the 198th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.