More nickel for Seahawks? Wright says yes because Blair needs to play
The Seahawks’ defensive struggles of 2019 have been well documented by now and the hope is improvement will be on full display when Seattle plays in Atlanta on Sunday.
The defense struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, surrendered nearly five yards per rushing attempt and aside from turnovers, the unit was among the league’s worst in nearly every major statistical category.
After pass rush, one of the biggest areas of concern with the Seahawks’ defense was their nickel defensive packages, or more accurately, the lack thereof.
The NFL has gotten more and more “pass happy” in recent years, and teams have been implementing more three-receiver sets as a result on offense. To counter this, teams are having their defenses play more nickel defense, where an extra defensive back lines up in the slot. Last year, the Seahawks trended in the opposite direction, using nickel sets roughly one third of the time, far and away the smallest percentage in the NFL. That doesn’t appear to be the case for 2020.
Heading into this offseason, 2019 rookie Ugo Amadi was seen as the favorite to be the starting nickel cornerback, but fellow 2019 rookie Marquise Blair made the transition from safety to nickel corner and has drawn rave reviews throughout training camp as he won that competition.
Among those clearly impressed with Blair’s play is veteran linebacker K.J. Wright, who is entering his 10th NFL season. When asked Thursday whether the Seahawks would stick with more “base” defense with three linebackers like they did last season, Wright shook his head.
“I can’t give away the game plan, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case with the emergence of Marquise,” Wright said, smiling. “We’ve got to have Marquise on the field this year.”
Blair started three games at safety after Tedric Thompson’s season-ending injury but was replaced by Quandre Diggs, who the Seahawks acquired ahead of the trade deadline. Now, Blair figures to see the field with Diggs and All-Pro safety Jamal Adams manning the back end with Pro Bowl cornerback Shaquill Griffin and either Tre Flowers or Quinton Dunbar at the other starting nickel spot.
Listen to Wright’s full press conference here.
More on Marquise Blair
• What Ken Norton Jr. revealed about Seahawks’ defense
• Bumpus: Why Blair has gained the most out of Seahawks camp
• Mock game takeaways: Paul Gallant on Marquise Blair, Carlos Hyde
• Pete Carroll provides a closer look at his team’s defense
• Huard’s Seahawks practice takeaways: Blair seems similar to 2018 Carson