Jamal Adams may have called his shot.
The Seahawks safety tweeted in May that he planned on setting the NFL’s single-season sacks for a safety. That record of 8.0 sacks, currently held by Adrian Wilson, is within reach for Adams in 2020 after he posted 6.5 sacks in 2019 for the Jets. Entering Week 12, Adams has 5.5 sacks, and he’s done that in only six games due to injury. If he stays healthy, his pace suggests he’ll be the new record-holder.
Adams was held without a sack in Week 11, but he preceded that with a season-best 2.0 sacks against the Rams in Week 10. He recorded his 6.5 sacks in 14 games in 2019, a pace of slightly less than one every two games. Adams’ 2020 pace has him getting a sack nearly once per game.
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Seahawks’ usage of Jamal Adams since trade from Jets
Part of Adams’ stellar sacks pace is his usage. He was always a talented safety coming down in the box and attacking the backfield, but Seattle is simply letting him do it more.
Pro Football Reference has kept blitz stats since 2018, Adams’ second season. In 2018, Adams blitzed 4.3 times per game. In 2019, that number increased to 6.4 times per game. But it’s obvious that Seattle saw an even more gifted pass-rusher when it acquired Adams. In his six 2020 games entering Week 12, Adams has blitzed 10.5 times per game.
In addition to Adams’ 5.5 sacks, he’s already set his career-high in quarterback hurries and tied his career-high in quarterback pressures (and again, this is in only six games).
Take a look at Adams’ first sack with the Seahawks: He’s aligned opposite the right tackle at the line of scrimmage and just comes on a straight blitz. There’s no disguise there, because that’d be a heck of a long way for a safety to drop out of the play. He’s simply just a better athlete than the man in front of him and downs Matt Ryan.
He sacked Cam Newton the next week coming from a deeper position, which meant the offensive line didn’t account for him. Then Adams used his speed to chase down Newton.
And on one of Adams’ two sacks against the Rams in Week 10, he ends up right at the line by the time the ball is snapped and again proves too quick to be stopped, even stripping the ball from Jared Goff on this occasion.
Whether Adams keeps up his pace and sets the safety sack record is an open question. It’ll mostly depend on how teams choose to address him versus other rushers. When Adams comes from a deeper spot, it’s hard for anyone but a running back to pick him up, because other linemen are tied up with more immediate responsibility. And when Adams sets up on the line, he’s sometimes just too quick.
Seattle’s pass defense has allowed more yardage than anyone in football, and maybe Adams is partially to blame for that. But the Seahawks obviously know how they wants to use their new safety, and the rest of the scheme has yet to come in place around him. Whether or not Seattle stops the passes that do get thrown against it, it doesn’t appear likely to stop Adams from frequently deterring or downright denying those pass attempts in the backfield.