Bucky Brooks: Seahawks ‘closed the gap’ with 49ers, so what’s next?

Jul 18, 2023, 1:43 PM | Updated: 1:46 pm

Seattle Seahawks Devon Witherspoon...

Seattle Seahawks CB Devon Witherspoon at the team's rookie minicamp on May 12, 2023. (Taylor Jacobs/Seattle Sports)

(Taylor Jacobs/Seattle Sports)

The Seattle Seahawks went 9-8 last year and got into the playoffs in what many thought was a rebuilding season.

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The Hawks were definitely one of the NFL’s biggest surprises as they made the postseason after a major offseason overhaul of the roster, namely trading quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.

While 2022 was an overall successful year for Seattle, the Seahawks had trouble with one team in particular – the San Francisco 49ers.

San Franciscom who won the NFC West and made it to the NFC Championship Game, took both regular season games against Seattle and knocked the Seahawks out of the playoffs.

The 49ers return a largely loaded roster for 2023, but the Seahawks made some pretty notable moves on defense this offseason.

“I think they feel good about their ability to compete with the Niners because it’s a rivalry,” NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks said during a Tuesday interview with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. “I think (the Seahawks) really closed the gap (with the 49ers), and now it’s about how well they can they play consistently over the early stages of the regular season to give them a chance to make a run down the stretch.”

When it comes to the 2023 Seahawks, all eyes are on the defense, something Brooks made sure to point out.

“I think the team has made a concerted effort to up the ante on defense. And if you think about the issues that they had last year, they just didn’t have enough star power on defense,” he said. “So you see the moves they’ve made up front, you think about (adding defensive linemen) Jarran Reed and … Dre’Mont Jones and trying to recreate what they had years ago, and (linebacker) Bobby Wagner coming back to kind of be the traffic cop in the middle, that helps them kind of dominate the running game, trying to rush the passer and do some of the things that they want to do. And then with the secondary, (safety) Julian Love coming over, what they’ve done with another year of experience with the young guys.”

Young guy in the Seahawks secondary

Another new face on defense for the Seahawks is cornerback Devon Witherspoon, the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Brooks, who assists with NFL Network’s draft coverage, had plenty of good things to say about Witherspoon when asked about expectations for the rookie in 2023.

“I mean, a realistic expectation is he’s gonna be a high-end starter for the Seattle Seahawks from Day 1,” Brooks said. “When you watch him play (college ball at) Illinois, (Witherspoon showcased) great IQ, a high football IQ. He understands the game, he’s very instinctive. The game is very natural and easy for him. When you think about his skill set, he’s a guy who has a lot of different tools in the toolbox.”

Among those tools are the ability to play either zone or man coverage, and also either press at the line of scrimmage or play more off the line, Brooks said.

“What that does is it now gives (the Seahawks) two corners that can do a lot of different things,” Brooks said, referring to the pairing of Witherspoon and 2022 rookie standout Tariq Woolen. “So if they want to be man-heavy one week and they want to play zone the next week, they now have the guys to do it because they have two corners who have that, and that’s not even including what Coby Bryant also can be on the slot.”

Listen to the full interview with Brooks at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

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Bucky Brooks: Seahawks ‘closed the gap’ with 49ers, so what’s next?