Seattle Seahawks need more from Jamal Adams to turn struggling defense around

RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks need more than just a quick recovery by quarterback Russell Wilson to have any shot at saving their season.

They also need another drastic turnaround from their struggling defense. Otherwise, it won't matter how long it takes Wilson to come back from finger surgery or how well Geno Smith plays in the meantime, because even a healthy Wilson would have a hard time bailing out a defense that continues to get gashed at a historic rate.

On the same night that Wilson went down with a finger injury that could sideline him for at least a month, the Seahawks allowed 476 yards in their 26-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the four straight games in which they've allowed at least 450 yards is a franchise record and tied for the longest streak in NFL history.

"We've got s--- we need to fix," said safety Quandre Diggs, "and everybody knows that. At the end of the day, you either do your job or you're not ready for this type of atmosphere. Just plain and simple."

Among the issues: Seattle's cornerback play has remained problematic, even with Sidney Jones IV replacing the since-released Tre Flowers in the starting lineup. Outside of defensive end Darrell Taylor's strong start, their loaded pass-rush has underperformed, with middle-of-the-road results in most metrics. Both issues help explain why they only have five takeaways.

And then there's safety Jamal Adams, who hasn't made the type of impact that was expected after his defensive backs record 9.5 sacks in 2020 and his record $70 million extension in August. He's yet to record a sack in five games -- which is largely a function of reduced opportunities -- and was involved in two forgettable plays against the Rams.

"I think for anybody that is highly compensated, you guys are going to take a good look at him and maybe give him a second look or a third look about what's up," coach Pete Carroll said. "He's playing his butt off, he's running and hitting and doing all that stuff. He got in a really awkward, unusual situation on an underthrow [Thursday] night and then he got beat on a one-on-one."

In fairness to Adams, he was staying on top of Rams receiver DeSean Jackson -- his job as the deep safety -- on the 68-yard completion in the third quarter. That made for a difficult adjustment when quarterback Matthew Stafford's pass was underthrown between Adams and Jones.

What happened on the Rams' next possession was much more straightforward: Adams got beat by tight end Tyler Higbee on his 13-yard touchdown catch.

"We would have loved for him to have won the one-on-one," Carroll said. "Those are hard and they ran it well and timed it well and did a nice job and they got him. The other play was just a screwball, in-the-park play and he wasn't able to find a way to get to the ball like he needed to."

The Higbee touchdown was one of two that opponents have scored this season while Adams was the nearest defender in coverage, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That matches the total from his 12 games in 2020. Adams has allowed a lower completion rate as the nearest defender than last year (65% to 75%) but a higher passer rating (147.3 to 114.7), per Next Gen. Those stats come with the qualifier that sometimes the nearest defender wasn't the one responsible for the pass-catcher.

"I think he's doing really well," Carroll said. "I think he's an effective, impacting football player and he's put right in the middle of the fire on so many different concepts. He's right where the ball is going, so he's got a lot of opportunities. You're not going to win all those. I would say this, too: He would be the first to tell you he wants to play better. He wants to be right more. He's a great competitor. He's not satisfied with nothing."

There's also the curious matter of Adams' usage.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, he's averaging nearly five fewer pass-rush snaps per game than he did in 2020 (3.4. to 8.25). As a result, there have only been five plays on which he generated the first pressure, down from 30 in 12 games last season. Per Next Gen Stats, he's lined up in the box 33% of the time this season compared to 42% in 2020.

That hasn't all been intentional. Carroll said blitzes designed for Adams have remained in the game plan but that many of them haven't fit with the formations they've seen. The plan wasn't to use Adams more in coverage and less as a blitzer in his second season with the Seahawks, according to Carroll.

"It was just to expand what we were doing to utilize his skills, which he's doing a really good job of," Carroll said. "He had a bunch of really good plays [Thursday] night where the ball doesn't get thrown because he covered the guy, took the concept away. You wouldn't even know. So he's doing some good stuff."

Adams' return from injury and defensive end Carlos Dunlap II's arrival via trade helped kick-start the Seahawks non-existent pass-rush midway through last season. That was the impetus for their 180 on defense from historically futile early to allowing the fewest points in the NFL over the final seven weeks.

They're every bit as deep on the edge as they were a year ago, which offers hope of another turnaround.

"It turned through the factor of the pass rush," Carroll said. "That's going to be the same thing when it turns this time. We need to be able to make the quarterback have a difficult time getting the football thrown."

To do that, they need to get Adams more involved.

"I would love to see him ... have more impact on the game by pressuring too," Carroll said. "That's why we build this stuff in every week."