RENTON -- The Seahawks needed to make a roster move on Wednesday to get veteran tight end Ed Dickson on the active roster. The move that they chose to make signaled a shift in their defensive plans coming out of the bye week.
Dickson was activated from the injured reserve list after missing the first 10 games of the season following knee surgery in August. Dickson had practiced the last two weeks and his 21-day practice window came to an end on Tuesday. Seattle needed to get Dickson back on the active roster Wednesday or he would have become ineligible to play for the rest of the season.
To clear a spot for Dickson's addition, the Seahawks released veteran cornerback Jamar Taylor.
Since being re-signed in Week 2, Taylor has been Seattle's primary option at nickel cornerback. He appeared in nine games with 22 tackles and three passes defended during his tenure with the Seahawks this season. However, Taylor has also been picked on at times by opposing defenses throughout the season. He allowed a handful of completions to 49ers wide receivers in Seattle's 27-24 overtime win over San Francisco before the bye week.
Head coach Pete Carroll gave indications on Monday that Amadi was going to get a chance to play more moving forward.
"I’m anxious for him to contribute more," he said. "He’s one of those guys that have been with us long enough, it’s time for him to get some more opportunities so we’re looking for that. Still a great competitor for us on a number of positions for us for play time. Coming off the break we have a chance to revisit some of that stuff so, if it fits with different positions, and guys, and individuals, we’re looking to take advantage of that."
When asked directly if Amadi would be taking over for Taylor now following their roster moves, Carroll said he would before hedging slightly that they have other options in consideration as well.
"Yeah, he's going to play there," Carroll said of Amadi. "We've got a couple different choices to play. He's been ready to do it and we're working some guys always that can also contribute based on the matchups and things. It's not for sure how we're doing that yet."
Amadi played 20 defensive snaps at nickel during the team's season opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals. He played one snap the following week against the Pittsburgh Steelers after Taylor was re-signed and has been relegated to special teams duty only in the eight games since. Carroll said Amadi has made strides since then.
"He's got hundreds of reps more now," Carroll said. "He's better versed now than ever. He’s a real smart player and a real heady player. He really has his assignments in order and his techniques that we’re expecting him to play, so if he’s the guy playing in the game, we really can count on him to know what’s going on. He's better now than he was just because of the time spent."
The other options available would be to play either Quandre Diggs or Marquise Blair in the nickel role. Diggs has experience at the spot during his time with the Detroit Lions and could be the most reasonable option outside of Amadi now that Taylor is gone. But given how bullish Carroll was on the play of Diggs and Bradley McDougald at safety against the San Francisco 49ers, that seems less probable for the time being.
"I really liked the way of the safeties this week," Carroll said of the 49ers game. "We hit the guys well, knocked a couple balls loose, (got) a pick. Some nice fills and fits in the running game. I thought the guys played the best we've played so we'll go to this week with the same guys going out there."
Taylor had a bit of a roller coaster performance against the 49ers. He was beaten in some man-to-man situations, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne. However, he also made a couple key tackles and stops at vital times as well. Nevertheless, the Seahawks are electing to make a change and throwing a rookie Amadi into the mix moving forward.
"I'm excited just to compete for the spot," Amadi said on Wednesday.
"I feel good. I'm continuing to learn, learning how this NFL works. Learning how these splits of receivers works and how offensive coordinators call their plays."
The Seahawks may not have to play much nickel against the Eagles. Without DeSean Jackson, and with Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery dealing with injuries, the Eagles receiving corps is far from imposing. Their rushing attack may be the main focus of Seattle's attention, which could lead to more snaps in their base defense.
Amadi said a nickel cornerback has to be adept in a number of areas to be successful.
"You got to do a lot of things all at once," he said. "You've got to be able to tackle. You've got to be able to be tight in coverage. You've got to be able to see the whole formation. You've got to know what's going to happen before it happens. Anticipation is key, instincts are very key as well, and when you blitz, you've got to get home."
Dickson is eager to get back on the field after missing a large chunk of the season for the second straight year. With Luke Willson likely out this week due to a strained hamstring, Dickson is in line to play a sizable amount against the Eagles this Sunday.
"The time is now," Dickson said. "The time is now. ... You never want to be hurt or be out, but to come back when the team is doing as well as they're doing and be able to immediately help and continue that path that we're going on feels good."
Photo Credit: CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 13: Dontrell Hilliard #25 of the Cleveland Browns is pushed out of bounds during a first quarter kick off return by Ugo Amadi #28 of the Seattle Seahawks at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 13, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)