RENTON, WA - Statistically speaking, after arriving in a blockbuster trade shortly before the start of training camp, Jamal Adams turned in a sensational first season as a member of the Seahawks' defense.
Living up to his billing as a pass rushing unicorn at the safety position, Adams put up historic numbers in 2020, surpassing Adrian Wilson's prior record for sacks by defensive backs with 9.5 of them. Regardless of where he lined up, Seattle blitzed him frequently off the edge and through the teeth of the offensive line, as he generated 26 total pressures and 14 of those plays resulted in quarterback hits.
Beyond his pass rushing contributions for Seattle, Adams finished third on the team in tackles behind only linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. He also tied Wright for the team lead with 11 tackles for loss, proving to be equally disruptive penetrating the backfield as a run defender. By the end of the season, he garnered Second-Team All-Pro honors for the second time in three years and was named to his third Pro Bowl team.
Despite the impressive production and accolades, however, Adams will be the first to admit not everything went as planned in his first year as a Seahawk. Thrown right into the fire without an offseason program or a normal training camp, it took him time to get fully comfortable as he immersed himself in a new defensive scheme playing alongside new teammates.
Though Adams won't be using it as an excuse, the former LSU star was slowed much of the season by nagging injuries, including a groin strain, broken fingers, and a torn labrum in his shoulder. In addition, he injured his other shoulder earlier in the season. He missed four games and for many of the 13 regular season and playoff games he did play in, he played through significant pain.
"After one year, you’re called injury prone. I’ve never been hurt, so that was new to me," Adams reflected while speaking with reporters on Thursday. "Mentally, it challenged me in a lot of ways. It made me a better football player, but it also made me a better man. I’m thankful for those times. Obviously, we don’t want to go through injuries as players, but things happen. It’s a vicious game that we play."
On the field, for those who had witnessed Adams dominate in New York before arriving in Seattle, the impact of his injuries was evident, particularly towards the tail end of the season. Compensating for a bum shoulder, he left a few tackles on the field he normally would make in his sleep. In coverage, several potential interceptions slipped through his hands, likely resulting from playing with cracked fingers that made catching the football extremely difficult.
Shortly after Seattle's season ended with a 30-20 wild card round loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Adams underwent surgery to repair his shoulder as well as his fractured fingers. Whether they wanted to see it or not, the safety provided a ghastly glimpse of what the procedures looked like on his Instagram, sharing an image of one of his fingers during an operation.
“That was mainly just to show the process," Adams said of the decision to post the gnarly image. "I’m about loving and enjoying the process. I wanted everybody to see what I’ve been going through and what I dealt with this past season just to understand who I am as a person and who I am as a player. Obviously, that picture was really gruesome, but it’s just part of the story. It’s part of my why and part of the reason I keep on going.”
Working back from multiple surgeries proved to be a difficult process for Adams and on Thursday, he admitted one of his fingers is "still kind of giving me problems." Though he promptly declared himself 100 percent healthy, that's not exactly the type of positive news fans were hoping to hear leading up to Week 1.
But as he does every offseason, Adams was on a mission to improve every aspect of his game. As part of his plan to accomplish that goal, the extensive time spent rehabbing this offseason, along with a brief hold in to start training camp as he awaited for a new contract, helped him from a mental standpoint. Honing in on mastering the Seahawks defensive scheme, his assignments, and the assignments of his teammates, he believes his enhanced comfort level will allow him to play much faster in his second season with the team.
Coach Pete Carroll agreed, saying Adams has far better control of Seattle's defense and will be able to do a lot more than he did a year ago as a result.
"We’ve expanded the things we are asking him to do because we have had time to work it out and get ready for it. He’s playing in a position a lot of guys that I coached over the years would give anything to be able to do the things he’s doing," Carroll remarked on Wednesday. "He has a lot of really cool things he’s doing in the scheme. He’s going to be called on to excel at them of course, but we are really counting on his instincts, awareness, and savvy he brings to fit in. He’s ready to roll.”
Coming off a strong first season with the organization, Adams isn't out to prove himself to his critics. He's not going to get caught up in the outside noise, especially on social media. Instead, after signing a record-breaking four-year, $70 million extension last month, his focus lies on doing his job to the best of his ability and doing everything in his power to help Seattle win football games.
With improved chemistry and the vast majority of the defense from a year ago returning, starting with Sunday's opener in Indianapolis, a healthy, motivated Adams can't wait to see what he and the Seahawks can accomplish together as they embark on their next attempt to bring a second Super Bowl title to the Pacific Northwest.
"You definitely can tell that we’re a closer group. We understand our assignments as a whole. We feed off each other. We did some of these things towards the end last year. We’re a lot more comfortable as a group just floating around, flying around the ball, making plays. We’re excited. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”