Heaps: Why Seahawks should roll with Ugo Amadi as starting nickel corner
Often lost in the shuffle when talking about the Seahawks’ struggling defense in 2019 due to the poor pass rush was the lack of nickel defense the team played.
Nickel defense has been more and more prevalent in the NFL in recent years as teams get more and more “pass happy,” causing teams to play with three cornerbacks and two linebackers, rather than the traditional defense with three linebackers and two cornerbacks.
The Seahawks haven’t been afraid of playing nickel defense in the past, with players like Jeremy Lane and Justin Coleman performing well in that role, but in 2019, when the defense was the worst its been under head coach Pete Carroll, the team opted to stick with three-linebacker sets, even in obvious passing situations.
That did change more towards the end of the year, and the player that filled that spot was 2019 fourth-round pick Ugo Amadi.
After playing some defensive snaps in Week 1, Amadi was mostly a special teams player during the year, but late in the year, he started to play more on defense.
Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy thinks highly of Amadi and would like to see him out on the field more in 2020.
“I don’t know if you can say confidently that he is the outright, penned in nickel corner starter, but for me, I think they should be going into this year thinking that way,” Heaps said. “Ugo Amadi, when he stepped in and they actually gave him a chance … late in the season, and Pete Carroll even said they should have gotten him out there (sooner).”
When the Seahawks did play nickel early in the year, it was with veteran corner Jamar Taylor. Taylor struggled and was eventually waived, and when it looked like Amadi would step into that position, Akeem King got the playing time. It wasn’t until very late in the regular season that Amadi got his chance to shine, and he performed well.
As Heaps mentioned, Carroll admitted they should have played Amadi on defense earlier.
“I’m really glad we made the commitment a few weeks back to get him in there and allow him to grow,” Carroll said in January. “I wish we’d have done that a little earlier. we’d have seen him develop faster because he’s just really kind of blossoming. He understands the position well, he understands the disguises of it and there’s a lot of intricacies in the nickel spot and he’s a really bright kid and he’s handling it really well.”
What Heaps sees most out of Amadi is his ability to make big plays on defense.
“This guy is a playmaker. When you watch his film or his tape from college, he’s a playmaker and I think that’s what Ugo Amadi brings to the table is if you actually roll him out there, and let him play 70% of the snaps during the season, he’s going to be better, he’s going to make plays for you and he’s a guy that is reliable,” he said.
While Heaps thinks highly of the young corner, there’s one crucial area that Amadi has yet to really showcase, and that’s prowess against the run.
“You’ve got to remember, you’re taking Mychael Kendricks out, a player like him or Cody Barton, and you’re putting Ugo Amadi in there, and typically, their nickel corners have been excellent run defenders,” Heaps said. “That’s the one question that you just don’t know because he hasn’t played enough snaps to have a full answer (for) that and unfortunately, I think that’s been a mistake for them, is that they don’t have a clear-cut answer as to ‘is Ugo Amadi our penned-in starter.’ If not, I think he has everything it takes to be that guy and be their next great nickel corner in the future.”
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