Devon Witherspoon will bring the boom in the slot for the Seahawks

The fifth overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft could transform the defense in 2023.
Jul 30, 2023; Renton, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon (21) during training
Jul 30, 2023; Renton, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon (21) during training / Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

I know, I know, you don't use the fifth overall draft pick on a slot corner. Except you do (like the Seattle Seahawks did in 2023) when that pick can transform your defense. That's exactly what Devon Witherspoon will do in the slot. Nickel, schmickel. Spoon will make the middle of the field his house, and the Seahawks are geniuses for putting him there.

Devon Witherspoon was drafted to make an impact on the Seahawks defense. Yeah, I know, thanks a lot, Captain Obvious. The Hawks usually draft their superstar corners in the fifth round - and I don't have to mention their names, do I? Pete Carroll and John Schneider had never drafted a cornerback higher than the third round. Even then they only draft a corner once in the third, Shaquille Griffin in 2017. So clearly, Witherspoon was drafted to play opposite Tariq Woolen, giving the Seahawks the best corner tandem in the league.

A funny thing happened last season, though. Michael Jackson played well, really well, in his first year as a starter for the Hawks. He only had one pick, but he broke up 12 passes, allowed just two scores, and allowed a passer rating of 75.1. That's all while playing 94 percent of the defensive snaps. For context, picture the QB facing Jackson as Justin Fields with no ability to run the ball.

You're going to win every game with that matchup. Jackson wasn't as great as Woolen, no, and he could tackle better too. He missed six tackles, of 7.4 percent of his attempts. He was a very solid starter, but there was room for improvement. That's why the Hawks spent the fifth pick of the draft on Devon Witherspoon. The man can cover, and he can definitely tackle.

Jackson is putting the heat on Witherspoon, and that's fantastic

A funny thing has happened in training camp, though. Jackson has gotten even better. As site expert Lee Vowell wrote, Jackson has played even better in the first week of camp than he did in July's minicamp. You'll also see that Carroll said Jackson had the best minicamp of any player. If anything, Jackson is playing even better in camp than he was last season. Yes, they just started playing in pads this week, but Jackson has spent a lot of time going against the Seahawks' best, as Woolen has sat out so far while rehabbing his knee. Relax, 12s, Riq will be ready to go.

Since Jackson is playing so well outside, the Hawks have continued to give Devon Witherspoon a lot of time in the slot. So far, the results have been - oh, let's say spectacular. As the eternally magnificent Bob Condotta wrote in The Seattle Times, "Tuesday’s practice at the VMAC — the second in pads and with hitting — seemed to offer the most vivid evidence yet of what Witherspoon may bring to the team...". Spoon made a few mistakes, as Condotta noted. Jaxon Smith-Njigba beat him over the middle to convert on third-and-12 play. 11 is going to do that to a lot of people, though. That flashy one-handed touchdown grab everyone is talking about was made over Jackson, for example.

But overall, Witherspoon has been terrific so far. Playing out of the slot, he shut down Tyler Lockett in the end zone on one play, sacked Geno Smith on another, and planted Colby Parkinson into the turf on a third. Mind you, Witherspoon is 6'0" and goes a buck eighty, while Parkinson is 6'7" and a hulking 251 pounds. How nice would it have been to have Spoon playing in the middle of the field last season? No more tight ends streaking down the field for game-breaking touchdowns. Stop just three of those terrible plays, and the Hawks would have been 11-6 last year, not 9-8.

That's what Devon Witherspoon can do for the Seahawks at nickel. Yes, Bobby Wagner will have something to say about long gains over the middle too, no doubt about it. But I love having Spoon patrolling up close. He's got the speed and quickness to cover anyone over the middle, and the power to blast the opposition to the turf. Just ask Indiana running back Shaun Shivers what Witherspoon can do when he's got you lined up in his sights. The Boom is back.

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