ALAMEDA, Calif. — Early in the third quarter of the New York Jets’ 34-27 victory over the New York Giants in Week 10, safety Jamal Adams displayed exactly whey he’s considered one of the best in the league.
Adams lined up a couple yards away from the line of scrimmage on third and 1 from the Giants’ 34, burst through the middle on a delayed blitz, wrestled the ball away from rookie quarterback Daniel Jones and took it 25 yards for a touchdown.
Raiders tight end Foster Moreau, who was Adams’ college teammate for two years at Louisiana State, expected the safety to make plenty of those kinds of plays in the NFL.
“Really elite DB, really carried the tradition of DB-U really well,” said Moreau, whose team visits the Jets on Sunday. “It doesn’t surprise me that he’s performing at an elite level now. That’s why he was picked so high, that’s what he’s been doing.”
Adams has started every game for the Jets since being drafted No. 6 overall in 2017. He’s recorded 26 tackles for loss, 19 quarterback hits, 11½ sacks, six forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions. He’s scored two defensive touchdowns — both coming this year.
He isn’t a typical deep safety, instead playing closer to the line of scrimmage to help defend the run and rush the passer. And while Adams has always gotten after the passer, he’s thrived in his first year under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with six sacks through 10 games. His previous career high was 3½ sacks, recorded last year.
Lining up all over the defense to wreak havoc on the opponent, Adams is the kind of player the Raiders must account for on every single play.
Wide receiver Zay Jones knows this well, having played in the same division as Adams for two seasons — plus Week 1 this year before Buffalo traded him to Oakland.
“They’re going to move him around and put him in positions and give him kind of free rein to make plays,” Jones said. “So just knowing that, he’s going to have the ability to move around, obviously a great pass rusher, can get after the quarterback, can make things happen. So we’ve got to protect the football as an offense and just understand that he can be very, very disruptive if he gets going.”
Quarterback Derek Carr recalled playing the Jets in 2017 and marveling at the then-rookie Adams’ intensity.
“Just paying attention to him his whole career I was like, ‘Can he really keep that energy up all the time?’ And he has,” Carr said. “It’s been very impressive to watch whether they are winning or they’re losing, no matter what is going on behind the scenes he brings that same energy every time and it’s very impressive. I have nothing but respect for him. He’s not just one of the best safeties, he’s one of the best football players in the NFL.”
Raiders coach Jon Gruden called Adams “fearless,” adding that Adams is one of the league’s most aggressive players.
“His playing speed is rare,” Gruden said. “He’s a linebacker playing defensive back, he’s a defensive lineman playing defensive back, and he’s a defensive back deluxe.
”He can do it all. He can rush. He can cover. He’s really good. He’s a sideline-to-sideline leader on that team, and he’s got our attention as does their scheme.”
Added offensive coordinator Greg Olson: “We do our homework in terms of the blitz packages we’ve seen from teams. But as (Adams) said, he’s kind of a little bit of an unorthodox player in that sometimes he’s allowed to do his own thing. So when you hear that, then you know that it’s someone you need to be aware of on every play because within the structure of their defense, he can bring it at any time.”
While Adams should present a formidable challenge, his college teammate is confident the Raiders will be up for it.
“You’ve got to know where he is, but at the end of the day we’re going to have a great plan. We’re going to protect our (butt) off,” Moreau said. “We’re going there to win a game, so we’re going to have to account for him.”