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Gallant: The 3 ways Jamal Adams can make Seahawks’ trade for him worth it

Jamal Adams was great on blitzes in 2020 but struggled at times in coverage. (Getty)

It’s late Thursday night, and Roger Goodell is at the podium to announce the Seahawks’ 2021 first-round pick.

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“With the 23rd pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks select… uh… Jamal Adams… safety… Seattle Seahawks?!”

The following night, the red-headed hammer is feeling an odd sense of déjà vu as he announces Seattle’s third-rounder.

“With the 86th pick of the NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks sel… uh, guys? You already picked Jamal Adams, who’s alrea-”

“We’ll also be taking Jamal Adams with next year’s first-round pick, Rodge,” snickers Seahawks general manger John Schneider.

This cheesy skit above would be way more entertaining than watching the early parts of the draft this weekend for Seahawks fans. But in a way, it’s the reality. The Seahawks went all-in last offseason to get a playmaker for their defense, and the early return on Adams has been pretty good, if not great. But Schneider and company finally have to pay off the credit card they used to rescue the All Pro safety from the New York Jets.

The trade was worth it. Seattle was very unlikely to find a player of his caliber with picks 23 and 86. Still, the price they paid means they’ll miss out on adding two young, cost-controlled players in the draft this weekend. To make up for that, I think that Adams has to take his game to an even higher level than it was this past season.

Here’s how he and the Seahawks can make it happen:

Familiarity

With no true offseason, the Seahawks had to figure out how to best use Jamal Adams on the fly in 2020. In the season opener against the Falcons, they sure looked like they knew all his strengths and weaknesses. But after a rough performance covering New England’s Julian Edelman following Quandre Diggs’ ejection in Week 2, a few weeks of injuries, and a couple of specific memorable struggles in coverage (Stefon Diggs comes to mind), it seemed like they didn’t entirely know his strengths and weaknesses.

Jamal hates it when people say this, but there’s no denying that his coverage ability – against wide receivers, not tight ends – is not a strength. Head coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. need to make sure that he’s not put in as many difficult situations as he found himself in last year.

As a blitzer, Adams is one of the league’s best. How else would he set the single-season record for sacks by a defensive back (9.5) in just 12 games? The Hawks found out just how great he was at this when they started blitzing more down the stretch, leading to 7.5 sacks the final nine games of the season.

Adams doesn’t have the best poker face when he blitzes. That could be on Seattle’s defense. It could also be on him. Whatever the case, the majority of Adams’ sacks came against shaky quarterbacks down the stretch. Quarterbacks who probably aren’t very good at picking them up during pre-snap reads at the line of scrimmage. Adams did have 1.5 sacks against MVP candidate Josh Allen, but my most vivid memory of that game came on a play that Adams was sent on a telegraphed blitz. Allen audibled to a screen, and the next thing we knew Buffalo had the ball on the Hawks’ goal line.

The Hawks have to do a better job of disguising those Adams blitzes in ’21.

Availability

I believe that non-recurring NFL injuries are entirely random. I also believe that certain players are better at playing through them than others. Adams – who missed four games early last season with a groin injury and also dealt with a hyperextended elbow, dislocated fingers, and broken fingers – showed that toughness by playing through a torn labrum in Seattle’s playoff loss to the Rams. I wonder how much of a difference he could have made on a couple of plays – a pass he jumped on his right sideline but was unable to break up, that moon-ball downfield to Cooper Kupp, and a couple of missed open field tackles – had he been anywhere close to 100% in that game.

You can’t assume health over the course of a season for any player in a sport as violent as football, and everyone’s dealing with something by the end of the year so I’ll admit this is wishful thinking. But given that he played 14 games in 2019, 12 games last season, and had all those injuries listed above, he’s got to have better luck on the injury front this year, right?

Adaptability

Assuming he signs a long-term extension in Seattle, it’s obvious that Adams will eventually replace Bobby Wagner as the Seahawks’ best player on defense. He may have done that already.

He’s got to make more plays, though. Those plays are unlikely to come via interception. He’s only got two over the first four years of his career, and he should have had a couple that he dropped last season (those certainly weren’t helped by his busted fingers).

I think it’s fair to expect Adams to continue to rack up sacks and tackles for loss. He’s an absolute terror when he lightnings towards the line of scrimmage and has shown a ridiculous turning radius to catch up with runners who look like they have a clear path to a first down or touchdown (look at his tackle of Cam Newton in Week 2, then Cam Akers in week 16). My hope is that he adds a little more to his ball-carrier hunting: an ability to separate the ball from runners.

Becoming the next Charles “Peanut” Tillman might be asking a little too much, but I’m sure with enough practice that Adams – who has forced seven fumbles in four seasons – can be a better turnover creator. With Wagner not getting any younger, he’ll need to be.

Follow Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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