Smashing Records, Seahawks' Jamal Adams Transforming Modern Safety Position

After surpassing Adrian Wilson to become the new record holder for most sacks by a defensive back in a single season, other teams may start trying to seek out their own version of Adams, who may alter the strong safety position as we know it.
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During the heyday of the vaunted "Legion of Boom," the Seahawks spawned widespread changes across the league in regard to how other teams scouted and developed cornerbacks and safeties in the secondary.

As Seattle made back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl spearheaded by superstars such as cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, other franchises tried to find their own versions of these iconic players. Teams starting using high draft picks on tall, lengthy corners searching for the next Sherman and sought out big-bodied safeties like Chancellor.

Now, with Jamal Adams poised to shatter records thanks to a unique skill set as an extraordinary pass rushing safety, the Seahawks once again have a revolutionary talent roaming their secondary. With the NFL remaining a copycat league, his incredible success in his first season with the franchise could have a similar effect to when Thomas and Chancellor dramatically altered how teams viewed the safety position.

Five months ago, when Seattle shipped multiple first-round picks to the New York Jets to acquire Adams, many questioned the compensation in return. Despite being a First-Team All-Pro in just his third season, skeptics weren't sold on him being worth that value due to the fact he only had two interceptions in his first 46 games and wasn't regarded as an elite cover safety.

While such concerns may still have some validity - Adams hasn't picked off a pass this year and has allowed opposing passers to complete nearly 78 percent of their passes against him thus far - he's proven last year's impressive 6.5 sacks wasn't a fluke. His presence has helped transform one of the NFL's worst pass rushes and in just his ninth game, he was able to leapfrog Adrian Wilson for the most sacks by a defensive back in a single season.

"It's a pretty cool feeling when you put your mind to something because I told myself and I told everybody last year when I did fail with 6.5 sacks and I got hurt, I told everybody that I was going to break the record," Adams told reporters after Seattle's 40-3 win on Sunday. "Some people thought I was crazy, some people believed in me. But the only thing that mattered is that I believed in myself. I knew that I was going to break the record."

Nearly wrapped up with his fourth season, with his record-notching sack coming against Sam Darnold and his former team, Adams became the first defensive back to produce 20 or more sacks before turning 26 years old. Since the NFL began counting sacks officially in 1982, he's already tied with former Packers great LeRoy Butler for seventh all-time in sacks by a defensive back and he's only 9.5 sacks away from breaking Rodney Harrison's career record.

Adams' disruptiveness isn't simply limited to bringing down opposing quarterbacks, however. He's a menace as a run defender as well, using his speed, instincts, and aggressiveness to rocket into the backfield for tackles for loss as well as stonewall ball carriers at the line of scrimmage. He plays with relentless effort in pursuit, as exhibited by him chasing down Wayne Gallman two weeks ago to prevent him from scoring on a long 60-yard run.

For the season, Adams has 63 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. In a full 16-game season, he would be on pace for 112 tackles and an absurd 15.0 sacks.

"What a fantastic football player," coach Pete Carroll said in regard to Adams, who received a rare game ball on Sunday after setting the sacks record. "He's just an incredible player and he's not done yet. He's going to get even more numbers before the season's over."

Possessing one of the NFL's most exceptional chess pieces, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has gradually figured out how to maximize the star defender's strengths within the confines of his defense. The process has taken longer than it may have during a normal season and the fact Adams missed four games with a groin injury didn't help the situation, but his comfort level in Seattle's scheme grows by week and the results speak for themselves.

Last weekend against the Jets, Adams only blitzed six times, producing a sack and a pair of quarterback pressures with those opportunities. Along with spending plenty of time walked up into the box functioning like an extra linebacker, he dropped back into two-deep coverage, he played "robber" to take away crossing routes and dropped a gimme interception on one of those plays, and he saw several snaps manned up against tight ends and running backs.

No matter where he lines up, Adams offers rare game-changing abilities and opponents have to account for his whereabouts every single snap. Each week, he's gradually improving at mixing up his pre-snap looks to disguise whether he's coming on the blitz or dropping into coverage, creating headaches for opposing quarterbacks and mucking up communication along the offensive line in terms of pass protection calls.

And the scary part? From Adams perspective, he's still learning and still evolving with his new team. As he continues to master the Seahawks defense, he's only going to become a bigger problem heading towards the playoffs.

Just as Chancellor did starring for the franchise for much of the past decade, Adams has a chance to be the transcendent talent that permanently transforms the modern safety position as we know it. And he's certainly not going to be bored as he does it.