Take a bow, Devon Witherspoon, this is your show now
So, last week, I made a brief mention of Lofa Tatupu's emergence as a top-tier linebacker during his rookie year on a Monday night in Philly. I wasn't trying to foreshadow something similar with the budding phenom from Pensacola — that's just kind of the way it worked out. Witherspoon made quick work of the Giants' receivers in front of the whole country, racking up seven tackles, two of which were sacks, and a 97-yard pick-six.
When the Seahawks drafted Witherspoon with the fifth overall pick back in April, yes, there was much hay made over passing on Jalen Carter, and if you haven't yet put that behind you, I feel for you and anyone you talk football with. But circling deeper in the depths of Twitter, where the film grinders lie in wait to tell you how Cody Barton is one of the most underappreciated linebackers in football, there were lots of superlatives being thrown about.
The name that rose closest to the public consciousness was Troy Polamalu, because of the sheer audacity to compare any incoming rookie to maybe the most instinctive player in the history of football. Jaire Alexander was name-dropped a couple of times, as well, which seemed like a much fairer comparison. But as I was perusing my timeline in the middle of a commercial break, one more name hit my radar.
As I've brought up a number of times, Pete Carroll resides on a major branch of the Monte Kiffin coaching tree. When he doesn't have the personnel to sit in cover 3 a supermajority of the time, he is quick to fall back to his Tampa 2 roots. Witherspoon's top traits coming out of college were his toughness, instincts, and prowess in the short areas of the field.
How did we miss this?
It's uncanny how history repeats itself every so often. In Bobby Wagner, Pete got the closest he possibly could to unearthing the next Derrick Brooks. Kam Chancellor brought John Lynch to a new generation. Richard Sherman never had to be Ronde Barber because of how incredible Earl Thomas was, but that isn't to say Sherman wasn't worthy of his All-Pro status — not in the slightest.
Witherspoon looks like he could be a different beast altogether, though. There's nothing he can't do. Man, deep thirds, flat zones, blitzing, run coverage — he does it all, and he's played all of three games at the pro level. The things this defense could evolve into with him at the forefront? Go back and watch the 2002 Bucs. The 2005 Bears. That's what we could be looking at.