A nickel for Jamar Taylor’s thoughts?
The veteran is absolutely not shy about saying his standout play in offseason practices and now in this Seahawks training camp will ultimately speak for itself, whether as an experienced cornerback Seattle lacks or the new fifth, nickel defensive back it needs.
“The tape doesn’t lie, and I know that I consistently make plays, every day,” the 28-year-old Taylor said Tuesday following his latest impressive practice on the 14th day of Seattle’s training camp.
“We’ve got great coaches, great teammates that are allowing me to pick up the playbook, and it’s allowing me to play fast.”
Seattle is searching for a replacement for Justin Coleman, its effective nickel back the last two seasons who signed with Detroit for a whopping $9 million per year this spring.
The self-assured Taylor has been one of the quiet standouts of camp. Almost daily, he has been intercepting passes and knocking down throws from quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch.
In the seventh practice of camp this month, during a drill of wide receivers versus defensive backs near the goal line, Taylor stayed chest to chest with Tyler Lockett as the Seahawks’ top wide out faked inside, then faked outside and tried to cut inside of Taylor. When Smith’s pass arrived, Taylor was right there to bat it from Lockett at the goal line.
A few reps later, Taylor was against Lockett again. Lockett ran a fade route trying to separate from Taylor toward the back left of the end zone. Taylor refused to be left behind. He knocked away that pass from Smith, too.
“That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” coaches and players yelled at Taylor.
That’s what he’s talkin’ about, too.
So far, though, Taylor’s not moving much up the depth chart. Not yet, anyway.
The Seahawks have yet to play their second of four preseason games. That comes Sunday night at Minnesota. Taylor figures to play most of the game.
He thinks he’s earned that.
“I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s not frustrating. Being a competitor, it is,” Taylor said of his lack of playing time with the starting defense so far. “But, then again, you’ve got to understand the dynamics. They drafted a guy (Amadi, this spring). Another guy was here last year (King and, mostly on their practice squad, Reed).
“I know, for me, I have to just keep on digging. And if I continue to make plays in practice and then into the game, then hopefully it shows, you know what I mean.
“But I’m never getting down on myself. God got my back. If they don’t see it, someone else (in the NFL) will see it.”
Taylor signed with Seattle this spring. He is on his fourth team in the last 15 months. He was Cleveland’s full-time starter in the 2016 and ‘17 seasons, at cornerback on early downs and at nickel in passing situations.
Of nickel, he says “that’s where I’ve made my money”—$11.2 million of it, to be exact, since Miami drafted him in the second round in 2013 out of Boise State.
Most of the current Seahawks defensive backs were teenagers when Taylor entered the NFL. The Seahawks have gone from the Legion of Boom to Legion of Boys in their secondary post-Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
Seattle has a second-year starting cornerback on the right, Tre Flowers. He is a converted college safety who this time last year was learning a completely new position. The Seahawks have a third-year corner starting on the other side, Shaquill Griffin. He is coming off what he says was for him a D-grade of a 2018 season.
At nickel defensive back, most of training camp the coaches have practiced Akeem King and Kalan Reed plus rookie Ugo Amadi. Amadi had a snap at nickel with the starting defense Tuesday. This week, though, that has changed. Taylor has gotten more plays as the second-team nickel.
Taylor, who turns 29 next week, has played in 78 NFL regular-season games.
King, Reed and Amadi have 28 career games in the league. Combined.
Does Taylor have a feel for how much the Seahawks value his experience in their inexperienced secondary?
“No, because in OTAs I only played nickel—and I felt like I made a statement there,” he said. “And now in camp I’ve been playing a little more corner, and getting in nickel a little bit. ...
“I don’t know. I really don’t talk the coaches too much about that.”
It could be the Seahawks’ coaches already know from all his NFL experience what Taylor can do, and that they are trying to find out what else they have in King, Reed and Amadi right now.
It also could be Seattle is going to play less nickel and more base defense, with three linebackers and four defensive backs this season. Experience, skill and logic say Carroll will have defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. use Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks together often. All are returning at linebacker with new contracts.
The last few seasons the Seahawks have been in nickel with five defensive backs and two linebackers, usually Wagner and Wright, more than 70 percent of the time. But that was when they had Coleman.
“It’s ongoing,” Carroll said of the competition to replace Coleman at nickel. “Kalan Reed did a nice job in the (first preseason) game. Ugo Amadi did a nice job in the game, too, in the plays that he had. And we know that Jamar Taylor and Akeem King can play there. So, we’ve got four guys that it’s kind of hard to get their reps right, right now.
“Kalan Reed has done a really nice overall job right now, pass coverage-wise. He’s done all that stuff well enough that he can hold his spot going into the week. But it’s up for grabs, and those guys will be rotating evenly throughout.”
The Dolphins traded Taylor to Cleveland before the final season of his rookie contract, in the spring of 2016. The Browns gave him a four-year, $14.4 million extension. He only played two years of that for Cleveland, which traded him to Arizona in late May of 2018. He was the Cardinals’ second nickel back behind former University of Washington star Budda Baker, and Arizona finished with the league’s worst record last season.
He was almost glad to be waived by Arizona in late November. The first week of December, the playoff-contending Denver Broncos signed him. He played four games for them before becoming a free agent at the end of the 2018 season. Seattle signed him in May.
“Past couple times teams traded for me. Teams wanted me. This is new,” he said of signing fresh with Seattle in the offseason. “This is all new for me.
“Being in this predicament, especially going into year seven, I’ve never really seen my career kind of going like this—especially with how I played in Cleveland. I thought everything was going up.
“But it’s fun. Competition is competition. At the end of the day, I am a competitor. And when we get between these white lines, there are no friends for me. I am always trying to put my best foot forward.”
Taylor said former Seahawks defensive back Jeron Johnson, his roomamate at Boise State, told him when he left Seattle following the 2014 season to sign with Washington he was sick.
“He hated that he left, because he was like, ‘Great coaches. Great feeling,’” Taylor said. “I remember coming for my (free-agent) visit and you could feel it. The music was playing. Pete came in there all hyped up. It was like, ‘Man, this is totally different than I what I was accustomed to.’
“Another thing is, coaches are always on the same page. Because I’ve been a part of a lot of other organizations that haven’t been on the same page. It’s great to see.”
He loves the environment with the Seahawks. But does Taylor see this quest to play as the “old” man in a young, remade secondary as an uphill battle?
“I don’t really worry about too many other people. I worry about myself,” he said. “I know that when (number) 8 is on the field, you know I am accountable. I am going to make plays.
“Like I told my coach earlier: Some way, some how, the ball always finds me. And I’m always getting it out.
“That’s what I look forward to.”