How much does losing Jamal Adams hurt the Seahawks?
For the second straight regular season, the Seattle Seahawks will get just 12 games out of Pro Bowl strong safety Jamal Adams.
The 26-year-old Adams is done for 2021 as he will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum to the same shoulder he had surgically repaired last offseason, meaning the Seahawks will now turn to Ryan Neal in his place.
So how much does losing Adams hurt the Seahawks? It certainly stings considering Seattle gave up two first-round picks to acquire him from the New York Jets in 2020 then shelled out the biggest contract to any safety in the game to extend him this year. But in a specific sense for the team’s defense, it shouldn’t have too much of an effect on Seattle because of how he has been used this season.
“The way that the Seahawks have been utilizing Jamal Adams, they have not been pressuring him nine-plus times a game like they did a season ago,” said Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy on Wednesday. “They’re bringing him (blitzing quarterbacks) three times a game and asking him to play more traditional strong safety and play more in coverage, and guess what: Ryan Neal’s strengths are as a cover safety. And so I do believe that they’ll be able to get by and get good play out of Ryan Neal.”
The 25-year-old Neal has been a solid role player for the Seahawks over the past three seasons and will slide into Adams’ starting strong safety role for the rest of the season. That’s a proposition that causes little concern for Heaps.
“I’m confident in his ability. I think Ryan Neal is a good football player,” said Heaps, a former Seahawks quarterback. “… I do believe that they’ll be able to get by and get good play out of Ryan Neal. Will it be to the same impact that Jamal Adams has in the run game? I don’t know about that. But I do think that you’re going to get good solid play out of Ryan Neal and this defense will still be functional and still be able to win games. And Ryan Neal, if anything, maybe he comes up with more turnovers than what Jamal Adams has thus far this season. So I do think that Ryan Neal has the ability to adequately replace Jamal Adams. There’s a drop off, no question, but I don’t think it’s one that really puts this defense in harm’s way.”
There is some subtext to what Heaps is saying about how Adams has been used, however. Adams set an NFL single-season record for sacks by a defensive back with 9.5 in 2020, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that he missed a quarter of the season due to injury. Adams has zero sacks in 2021, though, and though he has two interceptions, Heaps said that the Seahawks haven’t tapped into what makes Adams unique on the football field this year.
“I think you got a ton of production out of him and you utilized him to his strengths (in 2020). This year you decided not to, so you don’t see that same level of impact and those game-changing type of plays that Jamal Adams is fully capable of,” Heaps said. “When it comes to trading for a safety, when it comes to trading two first-round picks, when it comes to paying him as the highest-paid safety in the game, you better get that type of production out of him, you better get that type of game-changing play. And they have not.
“They’ve gotten good play out of him. I think that he has played strong safety in the way that they’ve wanted him to very, very well this season, but it has not been game-changing or true impact-level play. And that to me is a big reason why you look at this trade and you say, yeah, so far it’s been a bust. And when you have a player that has been injured two years in a row with significant shoulder injuries at the safety position, it really puts into question what his health is going to be long-term.”
Heaps isn’t closing the book on the Adams trade yet, but he does believe the Seahawks need to adjust how they use him when he’s back to 100% health in 2022.
“I do think that this could be a very positive trade, this could be a very positive story and situation. Jamal Adams could come back next year and be a very productive player for you, but as of right now, I don’t know how you look at this trade and say that it’s been positive for the team.”