Rost: Thanks to Jackson, Seahawks have a good problem on D

Aug 8, 2023, 8:47 AM

Seattle Seahawks Mike Jackson...

Seahawks CB Mike Jackson celebrates an interception against the New York Jets on Jan. 1, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks have a problem.

Thankfully it’s a good one.

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After Seattle selected Devon Witherspoon at No. 5 overall this past spring, the assumption was they’d have one of the best young corner tandems in football. On the one side was Riq Woolen, a fifth-round gem entering Year 2 who made a splash with six interceptions and a Pro Bowl nod in his debut season. On the other was Witherspoon, the best corner in the draft and a physical player more reminiscent – though not in stature – of Seahawks teams past.

Overlooked in the hype around a top-five pick was the player with whom Witherspoon would be competing: Michael Jackson, a fifth-year pro who last year strung together a solid season opposite the spotlighted Woolen.

Most Seattle fans were probably unfamiliar with Jackson when he took over the role in 2022, his first season as a starter. This was after two years with the Patriots though, where he played behind some of the league’s best corners. Rather than lament limited opportunities for defensive snaps, Jackson told Stacy Rost and Curtis Rogers being a backup there is the best thing that could’ve happened to him.

“If you look on a piece of paper it’s like, ‘Ah, we went to New England and it didn’t work out,” Jackson said. “For me, that was the best place I could’ve went. Every day I’m around a Hall of Fame coach in (Bill) Belichick, who knows every possible thing about football. Around (Stephon) Gilmore, that’s 10-plus years. Around Devin McCourty, that’s 10-plus years. And Jason McCourty (with 10 years). That’s 30 years of playing, you add another 50 for the coach, and that’s almost 100 years of football and I’m in the room with that every day just learning different tips, keys, fronts, different route combinations, where the quarterback wants to go with the ball.”

Jackson was the best player at minicamp in June. He’s been one of the better defenders through training camp. As impressive as he’s been though, he’s measuring himself by picks – and with none so far in camp, isn’t putting much weight into praise.

Still, in a group with two starting jobs, Seattle has three starters. It’s a good problem to have and one Seattle may solve by playing Witherspoon at nickel more often.

“I think they’re playing nickel a lot,” Seattle Times’ reporter Bob Condotta said during a separate Bump and Stacy interview. “They think (Witherspoon) is a really good run defender, a really physical guy.”

Carroll praised Witherspoon’s play at nickel during a post-practice press conference last Thursday. Last year’s starting nickel corner, Coby Bryant, has been splitting time at safety (itself a group with extra talent once Jamal Adams returns).

Finding ways to work in a surplus of talent through nickel and dime packages – especially with depth concerns at interior linebacker – makes for a good problem. But it also makes for a good story. One that may very well end with Jackson re-securing his starting role, and a defense that ranked 31st against the pass just two years ago taking yet another monumental step forward.

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