BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 08/05/2020

Thiel: Jamal Adams is the next Troy Polamalu

Pete Carroll had Hall of Fame inductee Troy Polamalu at USC, and now has Jamal Adams with the Seahawks. He says they “see things and feel things” before plays happen.

Four-time All-Pro SS Troy Polamalu celebrates after beating the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL in Detroit. / Al Tielemans, Sports Illustrated

For Seahawks fans still lamenting the treasure surrendered to the New York Jets for Jamal Adams — the two first-rounders for a safety even has NFL general managers feeling bile in the back of their throats — here’s a question for you:

What if Adams were Troy Polamalu in his prime?

About now in the world that we used to know, the gloriously coiffed warrior for the Pittsburgh Steelers would have been prepping for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. But the ceremony was scrapped in favor of keeping him and everyone else healthy.

Which changes nothing about the fact that anyone who saw him play from 2003 to 2014 would ask whether there was an honor higher than the Hall for Polamalu.

Including his college coach.

“When I watched Troy play, there would be times when he controlled the game,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “He could make plays that weren’t even within anywhere near the realm of the concept that we were playing.

“He could see things and feel things.”

Carroll is not anointing Adams yet as the next Polamalu, an eight-time Pro Bowl choice and a four-time All-Pro. But after three seasons, Adams has two Pro Bowls and was first-team All-Pro in 2019.

Adams was drafted sixth out of LSU in the first round of the 2017 draft; Polamalu was 16th in the first round out of USC in 2003.

“I’m not gonna say, oh, he’s better than Troy,” Carroll said. “I don’t know that. I just know that they both have a tremendous knack.”

Carroll may be cautious. I don’t have to be.

Adams is the next Polamalu.


Carroll convinced me after a lengthy presentation following my Zoom question.

“Forget the stature part of it; the way they look,” he said of the 5-10, 200-pound Polamalu and the 6-1, 213-pound Adams. “Troy was really an unusual body for the kind of athlete and player that he was. It’s the nature that they play with that’s similar.

“They play with such an amazing confidence. They go get things, and with their savvy that makes them so extraordinarily different than other players, they can see things before they happen.”

It’s sounds as if Carroll wants to give Adams a lot of latitude in how he is deployed, which makes sense since he had 6.5 sacks last year, three more than the top Seattle total in 2019. Polamalu had 12 sacks in his career.

“The last thing you want to do with these guys is is make them feel like they can’t have that kind of freedom,” he said. “As soon as you go there, you limit the magnificence of  these young guys.

“In our conversations so far, we’re talking about how he’s really disciplined, which I’m really excited about. He’s really cares about the techniques, the principles and the concepts. It’s to get him so that he can be freed up and he can play with great confidence and help other guys.”

From their USC days together (2001-03), Carroll recalled a ferocity about Polamalu.

“There was nobody . . .” he said. “There were times with Troy (in practice) he would go so far, be so aggressive (that) he created problems. I mean, we had to cancel practices a couple times when he got pissed off.”

He recalled a fight between Polamalu and RB Justin Fargas, who had a seven-year NFL career: ‘They’re going at it . . .  it was just interesting.”

Adams doesn’t come to Seattle with any sort of Mike Tyson reputation, although on his way out of New York he verbally scorched the general manager and coach. That has nothing to do with how he plays.

“I don’t know that Jamal has that dynamic about him — we’ll find out,” Carroll said.  “I’d love to see it. Well, we’ll control it.”


After last season’s feckless defense, even with DE Jadeveon Clowney, brought minimal menace to the weekly proceedings — yes, 16 recovered fumbles, second in the league, is nice, but much of that is about falling down right — seeing a guy like Adams stir the pot with a ruthless demeanor would be amusing.

As would sensing opponents’ plays before they happen. Polamalu was great, but Seattle has the Kenny Easley/Kam Chancellor legacy.


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  • DB

    Good question at the presser…Great commentary on the topic. Kenny and Kam represent huge shoes to fill. Like everyone else, I’m hoping Jamal does just that.

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Hope you’re right–I’m as big a bandwagon fan as anybody else but this guy might be that special.

    • art thiel

      Adams seems to have an “it” factor that Caroll covets.

  • tor5

    Wow. That’s quite an assessment. I’m not a stats junkie, but I’m a bit puzzled by how much value the critics give to hypothetical first round picks. Consider this: The Hawks last two first-rounders (before 2020) were L.J. Collier and Rashaad Penny. Before that, their first picks were Malik McDowell (2nd rnd) and Germain Ifedi. Which two (plus McDougald) would you NOT trade for Adams? Of course, time will tell. But I think the gamble on Adams is fully justified.

    • art thiel

      First-round picks are very valuable, just not in the hands of the Seahawks. By this point in the PC/JS era, the picks are like parkas to desert nomads.

      • Husky73

        A friend of mine used to describe that is TOAB….tits on a bull.

  • jafabian

    A secondary with Diggs and Adams is something I’d love to see along with a healthy Collier and a (hopefully) returning Clowney. Were that to happen this could be a special season for the Hawks but that could be all for naught. Even with Clowney IMO they could use one more solid OL.

    • art thiel

      Don’t forget Dunbar, should he escape prosecution.

      • Chris Alexander

        Or at least win his appeal and be taken off the Exempt list until he’s actually charged and/or actually goes through the court process. Right now it’s sort of an “indefinite” paid-suspension given that the Florida courts are probably backlogged 2-3 years at this point.

        • art thiel

          The virus has attacked the court system too. It’s possible the prosecutors may think the case is not provable, and drop the felony charges. I can’t wait for the explanation.

          • tor5

            Me too. At best, it seems the Dunbar situation is a bit unsavory. What’s he doing at a party with high stakes illegal gambling and a lot of ridiculously expensive watches? But whether there was a robbery, guns, witnesses, retractions… who knows.

      • jafabian

        I know he’s a skilled player but based on what’s been reported I’m not confident he will. Too many inconsistencies in the stories involved.

    • Chris Alexander

      I’ve been pulling for a Clowney return all offseason but I’m starting to come around to the idea that Seattle might be okay without him.

      I think they need another defensive tackle (“Snacks” Harrison or Timmy Jernigan, please and thank you). But they’re currently 3-deep at each of the defensive end spots with 2nd round pick Darrell Taylor backing up Bruce Irvin (a former 1st round selection) and Rasheem Green (our 2018 3rd round selection) on one side and 5th round selection Alton Robinson backing up LJ Collier (last year’s first rounder) and Benson Mayowa on the other side.

      Sure, having Clowney back (and/or signing Everson Griffen) would be nice and arguably make the team better, but … they might be okay with what they’ve got at DE. Especially if they plan to play Adams up close to the line some of the time and/or plan to roll out some sub packages that have Wagner, Wright, and 1st round selection Jordyn Brooks on the field at the same time.

      Could be interesting.

      • art thiel

        A key guy is Collier. If he’s healthy, there figures to be a whole lot more player there.

        • jafabian

          Also if Jarran Reed can return to his 2018 form. But they really could use Clowney.

  • 1coolguy

    Let’s not forget another USC Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott

    • art thiel

      He’s right there in the conversation, and he lasted a lot longer.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art – Amen and a strong Pez nod to Kenny Easley and Kam Chancellor!
    Go Hawks!

    • Husky73

      …and Cornell Webster.

  • DJ

    There are two strong positives that I get out of this move for Adams:
    – Re-establishing dominance at both safety positions, as in Chancellor/Thomas. In my mind, that was the foundation for the great run of 2013 and on. It will be a different favor of special regarding both players this time around, but has the potential of being really special again. Bolstering the D line with another duo like Bennett & Avril should put the D over the top.
    – Carroll/Scheider continue to be willing to think outside of the box to make key personnel moves, and capitalize on current strengths, such as Russell and the offensive skill positions, awesome linebacking staff, as well as Shaq Griffin at corner.

    This all is a feel good going forward…..Just wish this wasn’t a “COVID year”

  • Kirkland

    Based on his highlights reel, Adams knocked my socks off. Assuming the NFL plays a normal season (I know), he should help the Seahawks get a playoff berth, if not the division title. After that, it’s all up to how well Schneider negotiates with his agent for an extension/new contract.

  • Stephen Pitell

    It is useful to compare things. Such and such a country is about the size of Texas, or such and such player is like such and such former player we are familiar with, but everyone knows there are no two snowflakes exactly alike so why do we always want to compare people to people?

    Adams is special, that seems a given. He’s not Deathbacker and he may not be Polamalu, but he is special, and I cannot wait to watch him play. Last year was a blast watching Clowney slice up offensive lines. I’d still love to see him return, but if not, there will be plenty of special players to watch now with Wagner, Adams, and Dunbar in the mix.

    Covid19 be damned, I sure hope we can watch a few games this year.

  • BD

    Kam Chancellor is possibly my favorite Seahawk of all time. Somebody in here mentioned Ronnie Lott. My brother-in-law was dating my older sister in high school and played ball on the same team as Lott. So I watched Lott play when I was a kid and he was a kid. And he was just so much better than everybody else on the field that his talent just jumped out at you, even then.

    But I’ve always thought Chancellor was better. He just played in a time when you couldn’t play the position the way Lott was allowed to play. Meaning all out and hard hitting. If Lott played his game during Chancellor’s time, he would have been flagged off of the field.

    Which brings me to Jamal Adams. I haven’t seen him play. But I know that he can’t play like Ronnie Lott because those rules don’t exist anymore. My question is can he shut down the Tight End play? Because that’s what’s been eating the Seahawks defense alive, game after game. Kam Chancellor did that for the Seahawks for years, which is why those defenses were so good. Not too mention his leadership skills and the steady influence he had on his teammates.

    So if Kam Chancellor was Ronnie Lott 2.0, a TE shutdown machine, what will Jamal Adams be? But Kam Chancellor is going to be really hard to match, because he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer if he wasn’t injured early or if he had played under the Ronnie Lott rules.