Seahawks 2019 Awards: Special Teams Player of the Year
Following a season-ending loss in the NFC Divisional Round, the Seahawk Maven writing staff will be selecting award winners for the Seahawks successful 2019 campaign. Moving forward with our end-of-the-season awards, two rookies selected on day three of the 2019 NFL Draft made their mark in Seattle as special teams stalwarts before earning bigger roles late in the season.
Pulling off draft weekend magic last April, Seahawks general manager John Schneider transformed four draft choices into an 11-player draft class.
Shortly after wrapping up the seventh round, Schneider and coach Pete Carroll spoke at length about each player and a common theme became apparent. After finishing 28th in DVOA on special teams in 2018, addressing the third phase of the game was a top priority for this class.
“That’s just the way it happened. But it wasn’t an intent,” Carroll told reporters. “We’re trying to make everything as competitive as we can and trying to lead the charge with being as competitive as we can with all of our guys and bringing that mentality to each kid that we add to the team. It kind of suits the whole thing.”
Right off the bat, several rookies impressed the coaching staff on the practice field and locked up starting roles on kickoff and punt coverage units. Most notably, cornerback Ugo Amadi and running back Travis Homer emerged as core special teamers, eventually earning opportunities to play expanded roles late in the season.
Initially, Amadi won Seattle’s starting nickel cornerback job out of the preseason. But by Week 2, the team brought back veteran Jamar Taylor, pushing the fourth-round pick out of Oregon back to the sidelines.
Rather than pout about the circumstances, Amadi made the most of his limited chances on special teams. Though he finished with just seven tackles on the season, he downed several Michael Dickson punts inside the opposing 10-yard line and recovered a fumble against the Rams in Week 14.
After waiving Taylor on November 20, Amadi eventually found his way back into the defensive lineup, playing 55 defensive snaps during the final three regular season games and seeing significant action in Seattle’s two playoff contests. Looking back, Carroll wishes the Seahawks would’ve gone to him sooner.
“I’m really glad we made the commitment a few weeks back to get him in there, allow him to grow. I wish we would’ve done that a little earlier just because we would have seen him develop faster. He’s really just kinda blossoming.”
Similarly, Homer entered his rookie campaign stuck behind Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise on the depth chart in the backfield. But even though he didn’t log a single offensive snap in the first 14 games, he proved himself invaluable on special teams immediately upon his arrival in May.
Serving as the upback on Seattle’s punt team, a “big responsibility” for a rookie per Carroll, Homer made his first big splash in the second half against Minnesota in Week 13.
Holding a 34-24 lead and facing 4th and 3 from their own 32-yard line, Carroll rolled the dice and the Seahawks called a fake punt. Homer took the snap and exploded down the right sideline for a 29-yard gain, showing off the burst that made him an enticing prospect coming out of Miami.
With just 21 seconds left to play, Homer came through in the clutch again, ending the game with a fumble recovery after fullback C.J. Ham coughed up the football on a kick return.
Only a few weeks later, like Amadi, Homer finally got his chance to show what he could do on offense. Rashaad Penny had been lost for the season to a torn ACL in Week 14 and Carson and Prosise both exited with season-ending injuries against the Cardinals two weeks later, leaving the young back as the only healthy option for the Seahawks.
Teaming up with an unretired Marshawn Lynch in the season finale, Homer rushed 10 times for 62 yards and also caught five passes in a 26-21 defeat at CenturyLink Field. Based on what he’d seen on the practice field for months, Carroll wasn’t the least bit surprised.
“We totally expected that from him and that’s all he’s ever done,” Carroll commented. “He’s never been anything but full speed. He’s 1,000% every time he gets the ball in his hands or chases a punt or whatever he does on special teams. He’s been really true to who he is, but it wasn’t a surprise. It was good to see him be effective and have an effect on the game in a positive way.”
Heading into the offseason, Amadi and Homer will remain impactful special teams players for Seattle. But each player will also have a chance to build off their successful rookie seasons and carve out more extensive roles in 2020.
The Seahawks will likely add competition at nickel corner to push him, but Amadi should be the favorite to start at the position in Week 1. As for Homer, his strong play at the end of the season coupled with a lengthy recovery for Penny could open the door for him to be the third down back behind Carson at the start of the season.
Previous Seahawk Maven award winners:
Comeback Player of the Year: K.J. Wright
Most Improved Player: Rasheem Green
Offensive Lineman of the Year: Germain Ifedi
Rookie of the Year: DK Metcalf
Defensive Lineman of the Year: Jadeveon Clowney
Offensive Player of the Year: Tyler Lockett