Following the 2019 NFL Draft, the Seahawks brain trust of general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll were fired up about their selection of Utah safety Marquise Blair during the second round.
Despite missing all of training camp and the majority of the preseason due to hamstring and back injuries, it’s safe to say Seattle has been very pleased with Blair's performance over the past two weeks.
Appearing in six games and starting each of the past two games, Blair has produced a total of 18 tackles and one pass deflection. The rookie safety also forced a potential game-saving fumble against running back Devonta Freeman at the goal line during last Sunday’s 27-20 victory over the Falcons.
After struggling to find the field in the first month of the season, Blair’s performance this past Sunday in Atlanta was easily the best game of his rookie campaign. Speaking with reporters on Monday, Carroll clearly loves what he's seeing from the former Utes standout.
“Physical. He’s really decisive and goes after it. He’s made numbers of big hits already,” Carroll said. “He’s working hard and being clean at it. Doing a nice job to keep his head out of there and all that, but he’s going after guys.”
Posting impressive numbers through a pair of starts, Carroll expects the young safety will make further improvements during the second half of the season.
"Very instinctive football player. Very tough. Every game is a good experience for him to grow and just continue to get better and more confident," Carroll said before Wednesday's practice. "He already plays with a lot of confidence in the way he attacks the football and attacks his plays to be made. He’ll just get better over time.”
Missing so many valuable practice and preseason reps due to multiple injuries, Carroll and the Seahawks were forced to adjust their expectations heading into the season. Still, no one within the organization has been surprised to see him excel since moving into the starting lineup.
"He’s just missed too much time to expect him to really be any farther ahead than he is. He just couldn’t get out there," Carroll said. "He’s never shown anything but play making, a style about the way he runs and attacks the ball and all that. There’s no surprise in what’s going on. It just takes time. Now, we’ve kind of forced the issue and he’s had a couple starts now and he’s ready to go."
During both of his spot starts in place of veteran strong safety Bradley McDougald, Blair hasn’t looked overwhelmed as most rookies would be under such circumstances. For Carroll, his composure doesn't come as a surprise.
“It’s not too big for him at all. He’s excited about the competition,' Carroll said. "Really, we haven’t really thought about that it’s a problem in that regard. He’s ready to go.”
With fellow safety Tedric Thompson requiring season-ending shoulder surgery and Quandre Diggs still sidelined by a hamstring injury, the door remains wide open for Blair to secure consistent playing time over the final eight regular season games.
Even with McDougald returning to full health this week, Blair should be in line for a third start at the free safety position when the 2-5 Buccaneers visit CenturyLink Field this Sunday.