I know some 12s are really going to dislike Devon Witherspoon starting the season by playing nickelback. Why would the Seattle Seahawks take a guy they thought was going to play in the slot fifth overall in the 2023 NFL draft when the team could have had a defensive lineman like Jalen Carter? That thought makes sense, but what we are seeing now might not be how things always are.
Yes, Witherspoon could play the entire 2023 season in the slot. If he does, that means something really good has happened to keep him at nickel. The Seahawks coaching staff, and head coach Pete Carroll specifically, have earned the right to have us trust them. Lots of other fanbases would be happy to have had the relative success Seattle has had since general manager John Schneider and coach Carroll started running the on-field operations in 2010.
And if the team chose Witherspoon, got him into camp, saw what he could do, and thought, "Let's make him the nickelback," then there is likely a good reason for that. And there is one. That reason's name is Mike Jackson.
Seahawks likely have a very good reason for starting Devon Witherspoon in the slot
Jackson might not be long-term the player that Witherspoon becomes but Jackson right now might be better than Witherspoon is...right now. And if Jackson is close to how good he was in 2022 then he deserves to start at the beginning of 2023 until he shows he just doesn't have it this year as well as he did last season.
Jackson's quarterback rating allowed last year was a very good 75.1. He allowed just 55.8 percent of the passes when he was targeted to be completed. He also missed just 7.4 percent of his tackles. That is a solid number for a cornerback.
Witherspoon in the slot also gives the Seahawks an opportunity to be very creative with their defensive alignments. Witherspoon is also a good tackler and doesn't mind rushing the pass so we could see more corner blitzes this year. Or Witherspoon could simply be a shut down nickel who covers the middle of the field a lot better than anyone else the Seahawks have had recently.
There is nothing wrong with having a team's most talented and productive on the field. Jackson was one of Seattle's better defensive players last season and could be again in 2023. Why keep him on the bench. He and Witherspoon and Riq Woolen give the team an immense amount of speed too.
So, yeah. Witherspoon starting in the slot is a surprising compared to what we thought in April. But it also might the Seahawks in a position to win even more games.