By Chris Emma–
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (CBS) — As Jamal Adams walked through the NFL Combine on Saturday evening with the swagger of a top pick, he looked over to find all-time great safety Brian Dawkins sitting on his own.
This was quite the humbling moment for Adams, who grew up watching Dawkins star on those Eagles defenses. Dawkins currently works with Philadelphia’s front office and had done extensive work on Adams’ tape at LSU.
Adams couldn’t pass on this opportunity.
“Something just spoke,” Adams recalled. “Like, that’s who I admire, my game — he’s so passionate about the game, and I had to go seek wisdom, see what he sees.
“I was honored. I was blown away.”
Football is in Adams’ blood. His father, George, was a running back and Super Bowl champion with the Giants in 1986. George had a football in Jamal’s hands from an early age.
In fact, he was playing flag football at the age of three.
“Chasing butterflies and running the wrong way when I got the ball,” Adams said.
Adams’ upbringing with the game has been clear to NFL scouts, who instantly recognize his passion. At LSU, he was named captain for his third college game, the first freshman to whom then-coach Les Miles offered such an honor. Adams was a permanent team captain by his junior year.
Because of his natural enthusiasm for the game, Dawkins became a role model. He was a captain and emotional leader for the Eagles, a nine-time Pro Bowl safety who should eventually make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ranked as a top safety in this draft class, Adams has drawn comparisons to Dawkins. He’s tenacious downhill in the run game and has the ability to make plays in coverage, posting 209 tackles and five interceptions in three seasons.
Safeties don’t often go in the top five of the draft, let alone the top three. But Adams figures to be strongly considered by the Bears with their third pick, because he has the potential to end their decade of struggles at safety.
“The game is starting to change scheme-wise — passing,” Adams explained. “We’re starting to have tight ends that can run now. Four-four-two, as you see my man Evan (Engram) from Ole Miss went 4.42. The game is changing. O.J. (Howard) as well, 4.51. You need safeties that can do everything in the back end, can cover, can tackle.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pace is well aware of the situation at safety, having seen defensive coordinator Vic Fangio work through three options unsuccessfully in 2016. Adrian Amos struggled, as did Deon Bush and Harold Jones-Quartey. With Eric Berry retained by the Chiefs, there’s no elite talent set to hit the free-agent market.
Hypothetically, the Bears could answer address the need for a 5-technique in free agency, the quarterback position later — hello, Patrick Mahomes? — and prioritize Adams with the third pick if they believe he’s another Dawkins type who can be a difference-maker for years to come.
“I’m going to get the phone call,” Adams said, “and whoever it is is going to get a special person.”