Around this time a year ago, Ugo Amadi was routinely watching film from the Seahawks’ divisional round loss to the Packers last January. Though he only played 11 defensive snaps and allowed just one reception in that game, that lone catch proved costly for his team’s chances to get off the field and give a red-hot Russell Wilson the ball one last time down 28-23. Bested on an outside route on third-and-8 from the Packers’ 22, Amadi watched the otherworldly Davante Adams haul in what would be one of the final nails in Seattle’s coffin.
“I’ve watched that game - and play - so many times,” Amadi told NBC Sports Northwest’s Joe Fann last July.
To Amadi the competitor, it didn’t matter that he was facing one of the best receivers in the league at a significant size disadvantage, nor that he logged just 90 snaps in his young NFL career heading into that brisk January night in Green Bay. To him, he should have made that play.
Having to stew over that singular moment for the majority of the offseason, Amadi came into a COVID-altered training camp motivated and ready for a larger role in a storied Seahawks secondary. Mostly a special teams success his rookie season, Amadi took over the starting nickel corner spot following Marquise Blair's ACL injury against the Patriots in Week 2.
Though a hamstring injury kept him out for a pair of games in the middle of the year, Amadi was an otherwise constant for an oft-depleted secondary. On the field, he gave up his fair share of explosive plays (completed passes of 16 yards or more), but so did the whole secondary for the first half of the season. The entire unit was historically bad through its first eight games and though Amadi certainly wasn’t an exception, he was far from the main problem.
Once the Seahawks got healthier and established a more consistent pass rush with the arrival of Carlos Dunlap, their defense went from the team’s biggest weakness to one of its greatest strengths in the second half. Amadi still took his lumps at times in pass coverage, but overall proved to be one of the more well-rounded players Seattle had on that side of the ball.
What Amadi did outside of coverage was really impressive. His knack for making plays on special teams translated well to his first full year as a defensive starter, and his attention to detail in film study was often apparent. Whether he was blowing up screen plays or working against the run, Amadi made his presence felt in ways many cornerbacks cannot.
Amongst all NFL corners who played 10 or more games in 2020, Amadi finished with the 12th-best tackling grade (78.0) from Pro Football Focus. Of the 11 names ahead of him, only three put up better coverage grades than he did.
Rashad Fenton (KC)
Jamel Dean (TB)
Desmond King (LAC/TEN)
Corn Elder (CAR)
Ugo Amadi (SEA)
On PFF’s grading scale, 60.0 is considered league average. So when looking at these numbers, one could make the argument that Amadi was the second-most consistent performer in all categories out of these five names. Though he doesn’t boast elite numbers in one particular statistic, he was average or better across the board. That’s fairly rare to find out of the position; a do-it-all nickel corner who can impact a game in several facets—special teams included.
Faced with the potential loss of starting corners Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar this offseason, the Seahawks need some level of consistency in their secondary. They’re set at the safety position, but corner poses a few questions. Depth is a big concern, as well as the second starter opposite D.J. Reed who - despite an excellent finish to the 2020 season - has yet to put it all together for a full campaign.
In his 552 snaps last year, Amadi was quite possibly the Seahawks’ most consistent player out of the position. He got beat in coverage a decent amount, sure, but he was never a liability. For a player who placed a great deal of blame on himself for that loss in Green Bay, this was the kind of response Seattle needed to see.
With big changes possibly on the way, Amadi may circumstantially become one of the longest-tenured cornerbacks on Seattle’s roster. Heading into just his second full season in a starting role, he’s still figuring things out along the way. But in 2020, his consistency proved the Seahawks can depend on him, and they’ll need to with uncertainty currently shrouding their cornerback group.