Rost: 3 big swings have potential to take Seahawks from good to great

Jun 16, 2023, 9:23 AM

Seattle Seahawks Jamal Adams...

Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams celebrates an interception against Washington on Nov. 29. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

(Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

Every team needs to take a big swing once in a while. Some teams go for broke. The Los Angeles Rams sent several first-round picks to build an eventual Super Bowl team. The Chiefs picked a quarterback with some decision-making questions out of Texas Tech who slipped out of the top 10. The Jets this year flew out to California to make a pitch to Aaron Rodgers, who will be suiting up in gang green in Week 1. The Seattle Seahawks have taken several risks of their own, including last year’s blockbuster trade of Russell Wilson.

Three big swings are on the roster this year and have the potential to take this team from good to great. Or at least the hope is that they do. If not, a big swing like that can leave Seahawks’ brass with the unenviable sting of a miss.

SS Jamal Adams

Prior to dealing Russell Wilson, Jamal Adams was the biggest trade of John Schneider’s career. But even when Adams was widely considered one of the league’s best safeties, some critics wondered whether two first-round picks was too much for a non-quarterback.

At the time, the Seahawks probably felt just fine about that: they typically drafted in the 20s and had a chance to get a player they’d never normally have a shot at. He was just 24 years old, was coming off a first-team All-Pro season, and had missed only two games over the course of his career. Seattle had their quarterback. What they didn’t have was a defense that could help take them to the next level.

And at first, Adams did that. Even missing four games, he set a new league record for sacks by a defensive back in 2020. But the Seahawks followed with one of Carroll’s worst seasons in 2021 and that second first-round pick hurt: a 10th overall pick used by the Jets to select future Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson. Worse still, Adams — who was signed to a pricey extension — was missing more games: five in 2021, and all but one in the 2022 season.

Contrary to the lamenting of some exhausted Seahawks fans, Adams is not a bad player. In fact, he can be an elite player. But he hasn’t been able to stay on the field and must also be used in a scheme that can take advantage of his unique skill set. Is he going to be the very best cover guy in the league? Probably not, but is that what you’re looking for from a strong safety who can play in the box? In an evolving NFL, where hybrid positions can become impossible to defense against or block, Adams can bring the Seahawks defense an X-factor they badly need.

The first step is to get back to the field.

Carroll is holding out hope that’ll be by Week 1, but isn’t committing to a firm timeline.

“No, not yet,” Carroll said last week when asked whether he has concerns about Adams not being ready to start the season. “We’ll see. Let’s get to (training) camp first and see what happens. It may be too much to ask, I don’t know. We’ll see.”

Seattle Seahawks still uncertain on Jamal Adams, Jordyn Brooks timelines

CB Devon Witherspoon

Witherspoon is the highest draft pick ever under Schneider and Pete Carroll.

A hard-hitter who plays bigger than his frame, the former Illinois star was widely considered the top corner in the draft and can bring a physicality Carroll has prized in previous iterations of this secondary (who doesn’t miss the “boom” from the Legion of Boom?).

The Legion of Boom star Huard sees in Seattle Seahawks’ Devon Witherspoon

But it’s not just the fifth overall selection that made him a unique investment: Seattle, a team that badly needed defensive line help, also passed on highly-touted Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, a rare talent with red flags. Carter had been so frequently mocked to Seattle that Illinois head coach Bret Bielema, who was in the green room with Witherspoon, told Bump and Stacy cameras were initially trained on another prospect when Witherspoon got the call from Schneider.

Illinois coach Bielema: Seahawks get ‘relentless’ worker in Witherspoon

Sometimes a great player isn’t a great fit, and that may very well be the case with Carter and Seattle. Carter instead heads to Philadelphia, where he’ll have guidance from former college teammates, while Witherspoon has a chance to help a Seattle secondary go from good to elite. And with so much invested in the secondary as a whole — contracts for Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, first-round picks for Adams, and a fifth-overall pick on Witherspoon — that’s a fair goal.

And while Seattle didn’t get the defensive line help it badly needed in the first round, the defense can still benefit up front from stellar back-end play.

“I’ve always been a big believer that rush and coverage complement each other,” defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt told Bump and Stacy in May. “That was kind of rooted in me from the very beginning of when I got into football. In my Miami Hurricane days, we’d play Ed Reed and Phillip Buchanan. We had so many guys in the secondary. It helped us as pass-rushers because quarterbacks had to hold the ball because coverage was tight… you can’t eliminate a great cover guy.”

Witherspoon certainly has the potential to be just that. Bielema, who raved about Witherspoon’s dedication to staying in shape and practicing, also pointed to his on-field awareness.

“I think Spoon probably knew what play was going to be called before the quarterback even called it. He just truly has great instincts.”

Witherspoon nursed a hamstring injury through rookie camp but was able to practice more fully toward the close of Seattle’s mandatory minicamp, including getting reps at nickel filling in for an injured Coby Bryant.

DL Dre’Mont Jones

By virtue of not being attached to draft picks, Dre Jones wasn’t as big a swing as Adams or Witherspoon. But he is the owner of the biggest free agent contract ever given out by Schneider and Carroll, and the only of these three to play on the defensive line, which is where Seattle needs the most help in 2023.

Jones, 26, recorded 6.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and 47 tackles for the Broncos last season. There was a thought Denver may use the franchise tag to keep Jones, but the deadline came and went and Jones instead hit free agency.

The Seattle Seahawks are still trying to find an answer at nose tackle but in the meantime, Jones adds experience to a line that’ll have a complete turnover from last year to this fall.

Salk: Seattle Seahawks look like they’ve found the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ again

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