Has there even been a CB like Seattle Seahawks’ Devon Witherspoon?
Oct 3, 2023, 3:24 PM | Updated: 3:31 pm
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
The talk of the NFL after this week’s Monday Night Football matchup is Seattle Seahawks rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon.
The Illinois product showed why the Hawks made him the No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft (aside: remember to sent your “Thank You” cards to your friends in Denver) with a breakout performance on the national stage, registering two sacks and returning his first career interception in the pros 97 yards for a touchdown in the 24-3 Seattle victory.
It’s not just the big plays that are standing out when it comes to Witherspoon. It’s also the big hits, which are frankly shocking coming from a player that is listed as under 6-feet tall and just 181 pounds.
For that reason, former NFL quarterback Brock Huard is struggling with something.
“Who is Devon Witherspoon reminding you of?” asked Mike Salk, Huard’s co-host on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, on Tuesday morning.
Replied Huard: “I’m having a real hard time.”
The reason is the particular brand of intensity that Witherspoon brings to the table, because he hits perhaps more like a safety with maybe 10 or 20 more pounds on his frame. There’s also the fact that he’s already shown he’s capable of playing on the outside as well and coming in to handle the nickel corner position.
“Deion (Sanders) to me was never violent,” said Huard, referring to a name FOX broadcaster and former Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman mentioned as a potential comparison for Witherspoon during Monday’s game. “Troy used that because of the (No. 21 jersey) number and the speed and the twitch and all of that, but he’s not Deion.”
Another name that came up was Samari Rolle, who was a 6-foot, 175-pound cornerback that played from 1998 to 2008 with Tennessee and Baltimore, and made one All-Pro team. That was a comp made by Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network.
“Samari Rolle’s got kind of the length and the body and the lean muscle mass, but I don’t remember Samari inside and out and hitting people the way this guy is,” Huard answered.
Responded Salk: “I can’t think of corners that hit like that.”
There is one name that Huard eventually landed on, though: Stephon Gilmore, a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro who starred with Buffalo and New England. The 6-1, 202-pound Gilmore was also a first-round draft pick (No. 10 overall out of South Carolina in 2012). Now 33 years old, Gilmore is playing with the Cowboys.
“Stephon Gilmore was about 6-foot and 190 pounds coming out of college, and I remember him the same way: instinctive,” said Huard, a longtime college football analyst who now calls games for FOX. “You just feel like, man, if I’m a quarterback, I better be very, very careful throwing his way, because either I’m going to get my guy killed or he’s going to take it away from me.”
Huard found a different way to comp Witherspoon, as well, by talking about the sound made when he hits ball carriers. And all the while, he’s still able to shut down receivers in the passing game, too.
“Going back and looking at Devon’s numbers out of college, completion percentage against him at Illinois last year was 30%. People did nothing against him. And then he came out and just cleaned out clocks over and over and over again. I use the words just noise and sound. When we go and watch (former Seattle Mariners slugger) Nelson Cruz hit, when you go and watch (Teoscar Hernández) hit, you can close your eyes and when you’re around the cage, there is just a certain explosion that comes off their bat that just sounds different.
“(Former NFL safety) John Lynch was a guy that when he was in a short, very short small area when he hits you, it sounds different. It’s why you see the spine and the neck of the dudes they’re hitting just stop and snap. (Witherspoon) is like Rice Krispies, man – snap, crackle, pop. He gets it, and he gets it inside and he gets it outside. He’s a very hard comp because there’s not many at 180 pounds that are doing it the way that he’s doing it three weeks (into his NFL career).”
Hear the full discussion in the Blue 88 segment of Tuesday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the audio player near the top of this post.
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