While the Seahawks snapped a three-game losing streak against the 49ers on Sunday, the victory came at a significant cost with the team losing one of their biggest stars for the remainder of the season.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, All-Pro safety Jamal Adams suffered a torn labrum and "additional damage" to his left shoulder and as confirmed through team sources, he will undergo season-ending surgery in the near future. The fifth-year defender had a torn labrum repaired in the same shoulder last offseason and he's expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2022 season.
While it's possible Adams re-injured the shoulder earlier in the game, his left arm appeared to go limp after he made a big hit on 49ers tight end George Kittle with under four minutes left to play in the second quarter. Ryan Neal replaced him on the very next play and he immediately went to the blue injury tent on the sideline, eventually being escorted to the locker room.
When the Seahawks returned to the field after halftime, Adams wasn't in uniform and walked back to the sideline wearing street clothes with the team ruling him out for the remainder of the contest.
After signing a record-breaking four-year, $70 million extension in mid-August, Adams got off to a somewhat slow start before finding his groove in October. Since a Week 5 loss to the Rams, per Pro Football Focus, he has amassed 49 combined tackles, seven quarterback pressures, and two interceptions. Knocked for his coverage skills in the past, opposing quarterbacks posted a mediocre 58.8 passer rating when targeting him in the past seven games while completing just 17 out of 29 passes.
Shockingly, Adams will end the 2021 season without a single sack one year after breaking the NFL record for defensive backs with 9.5 sacks. Much of that has had to do with the Seahawks sending him less on the blitz and using him in deep coverage as a free safety more frequently. Per PFF, he played deep safety on 302 out of 872 defensive snaps - nearly 35 percent of the time - while only rushing on 5.8 percent of those snaps compared to 12.3 percent in 2020.
Even considering his diminished pass rushing productivity, losing Adams for the final five games of the season will be a major blow for Seattle's much-improved defense, as his rare versatility has allowed the team to play a myriad of different coverages and schemes. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has dialed up more two-deep safety, middle of the field open schemes than prior seasons, running Cover 2, Cover 4, and Cover 6 on 32 percent of their snaps according to TruMedia. Last season, they used those coverages 29 percent of the time.
While the sack numbers haven't been there and he hasn't been deployed near as much as a rusher this season, Adams' absence further hinders a Seattle defense that has struggled getting to opposing quarterbacks all season long. His ability to thrive playing in the box may also have a negative impact on the team's run defense, which has been stout for most of the season.
If there's a silver lining for the Seahawks, Neal has played well when his number has been called upon the past two years and already has been seeing several snaps a game in dime packages. In fact, he started four games in place of Adams a year ago and performed admirably, recording 28 tackles, three pass breakups, and an interception.
From a depth standpoint, slot cornerback Ugo Amadi has experience playing safety in Seattle's scheme and could slide into a backup role behind Neal. The team also could consider bringing back free agent veteran Bradley McDougald, who started 39 games in three seasons with the team before being included as part of the trade to acquire Adams from the New York Jets prior to the 2020 season.
Limited to 12 games for the second straight season due to injury, Adams will finish the season with 87 combined tackles, four tackles for loss, two interceptions, and five passes defensed.