Seahawks Q&A: What’s the comfort level with Seattle’s current CBs?

Jun 4, 2021, 9:54 AM

Seahawks CB Ahkello Witherspoon...

The Seahawks signed former 49ers CB Akhello Witherspoon in free agency. (Getty)


In a quick break from Julio Jones-related news, Seahawks fans were asked to send in their biggest questions about the upcoming season.

Clayton: Don’t rule out Seahawks for Julio Jones if asking price is falling

While the rest of the NFL world is wondering where one of the league’s best receivers is going to land, Seattle fans still have plenty of questions about the cornerback room and whether we’ll ever see K.J. Wright in a Seahawks uniform again.

@Weavingthrulife: Are you comfortable with the corners they currently have? 

It’s the most untested position group on the defensive side of the ball right now, and in an ideal world I’d like to see them add to it. That’s primarily because of their struggles in the first half of last season, inconsistent play and availability from potential starters, and the reality of facing a tough division once again this year. If I’m being honest, I also think Richard Sherman and the rest of Seattle’s Legion of Boom will always set an impossibly high standard for their predecessors, and that previous iteration continues to shade evaluations of new groups each year. At least for right now, Pete Carroll appears comfortable, which certainly matters more than my opinion.

Speaking of that group, none of this means they can’t be solid. In fact, there’s enough potential there for them to be good. But it does mean they’re going to spend a large part of the season answering questions. Can Ahkello Witherspoon reach his potential with a new team? Can Tre Brown fight for a starting role and avoid making costly rookie mistakes? Can D.J. Reed be a full-time starter? How impactful is the loss of Shaquill Griffin? Pete Carroll’s best defenses featured taller corners with at least 32-inch arms – what will it look like with a pair of shorter outside corners?

Seattle is coming off a season where they struggled against the pass – and a second-half improvement, while impressive, doesn’t eliminate those concerns. Reed, 24, was the most impressive of the existing group last season. He started a career high eight games (he was limited to 10 after coming off the injured reserve) and in half a season recorded a pair of interceptions, seven passes defended, and two tackles for loss. Those seven passes defended and two picks were the most of any corner outside of Shaquill Griffin, but Reed was awarded a 73.1 grade from Pro Football Focus compared to Griffin’s 64.1. Even higher than Reed’s grade was Akhello Witherspoon’s, at 80.2 (For the sake of comparison, it should be noted here that Griffin’s career has outperformed Witherspoon’s in tackles for loss and interceptions). Witherspoon struggled at times in San Francisco, both with his play and his health, but also had moments like this which showcased the talent that drew the 49ers (and Carroll) to him when he was coming out of Colorado back in 2017.

If your opinion of this group can be swayed by confidence, Witherspoon has plenty of it.

“I think when I was healthy, I was the best corner in the league,” Witherspoon said during May’s OTAs. “And I’m not going to settle for anything else. Just when I got injured – I had two bad injuries that no one really knows about or cares about and it’s not my place to make people care. But you go out there and you fight and you push through and if you’re not at the best of your ability in this league and you’re not healthy, it’s difficult to stay at that level that it takes to be All-Pro and a Pro Bowler. So I’m just extremely excited right now to be healthy, clear-minded, in a new environment, and I’m just very excited to put that on tape.”

Witherspoon and Reed will be in that battle with veteran Tre Flowers, rookie Tre Brown, and free agent addition Pierre Desir, among others. Whoever wins those starting jobs will be bolstered by a pair of great safeties, but at least to begin the season, I would assume most analysts will see them as a liability against the league’s best offenses. That doubt comes with the territory of a group with limited starting experience or star power. They’ll get a chance to shake some of it with an early test in a pair of games against the 49ers and Rams in early October. Add a Week 2 contest against the Titans to that list if Tennessee manages to land Julio Jones.

@110FPS: Do you think there are any players going under the radar that will have a big impact on our season

Throw any of the tight ends in this discussion. The lack of effective tight end usage last season was an under-the-radar issue in Seattle’s offensive struggles. Without David Moore, the Seahawks will need to establish a solid third receiver. Yes, that could be Freddie Swain or 2021 second-round pick D’Wayne Eskridge (the latter of whom gives Seattle an especially speedy option). But it could be one of several tight end options. Consider it a hopeful side effect of a Shane Waldron-led offense.

Will Dissly joined Jake & Stacy Thursday to talk about the impact Seattle’s new OC will have on the tight end room.

“Shane’s a really smart guy,” Dissly said. “His offense is really systematic and has a lot of answers. There’s going to be some uniqueness. And the cool part about it is we’re going to get some tight ends on the field. I think Gerald (Everett) and I are going to be a great compliment, and Colby (Parkinson), and whoever steps up. We’re going to create a lot of problems for defenses around the league. We have a really tough division and I think Shane’s ready. He’s come prepared and Russ is picking it up quick, he’s excited. There’s a newness; a new sense of urgency and a new energy, and we’re all excited to learn and get on the field and go operate a little bit.”

@NurseMarley: K.J., where is K.J.?

It’s a question I see often and it’s for good reason. Not only is Wright a fan favorite, but he’s also had two of his best seasons in 2019 and 2020. Unfortunately, as a 31-year-old outside linebacker in a tighter salary cap year, he’s facing a tougher market than he would have in seasons past. It could work out in Seattle’s favor should Wright be open to signing for less than he may have been expecting (and less than he’s worth). But even then, I would caution that a return isn’t guaranteed.

The Seahawks spent a first-round pick on linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who took over at weakside last year. Wright slid into the strongside spot, but Seattle may also want to see whether they can use Cody Barton or, potentially, 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor in that spot. The Seahawks need to be faster on defense and players like Brooks and Taylor give them a better opportunity to do that. If those players are making mental errors or are dealing with injuries, I would assume then Seattle would be open to re-signing the savvy vet.

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Seahawks Q&A: What’s the comfort level with Seattle’s current CBs?