STACY ROST

Rost: Seattle Seahawks who are rising and waiting to take off

Oct 5, 2023, 11:02 AM | Updated: 11:20 am

Seattle Seahawks Devon Witherspoon...

Devon Witherspoon of the Seattle Seahawks returns an interception for a touchdown on Oct. 2, 2023. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks are just a month into the season, but an early bye gives us a chance to look back at the most impressive starts of the season thus far, as well as a pair of Hawks who are still waiting to take off.

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Let’s take a look at which Seahawks players have been on the rise through the first four games, and a couple who have yet to stand out.

Rising

Devon Witherspoon

Seahawks fans had to wait an extra week to see his debut, but Devon Witherspoon already looks like the hard-hitting playmaker that became a star for Illinois, and it was none more obvious than in his most recent outing.

It hadn’t been smooth sailing. A hamstring injury kept the rookie corner sidelined through the preseason and Week 1. At the same time, defensive lineman Jalen Carter — whom most draft experts mocked to Seattle earlier this year — was looking like a star in Philadelphia. His eight pressures were the most of any defensive tackle in Week 1. The comparisons were premature and not fair, but they were understandable: Could Witherspoon be as impactful for the Seahawks as Carter was for the Eagles?

Turns out the rookie can be pretty dang impactful. Just ask Daniel Jones about Witherspoon’s impact — literally. The Giants quarterback was sacked by Witherspoon in the first quarter of Monday Night Football. That wasn’t enough for the young Hawks corner, who racked up another sack and a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown, the second-longest pick-six in franchise history. He earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his work.

So that’s what a No. 5 overall pick can look like.

Geno Smith

The biggest question facing Geno Smith after last year’s resurgence to his career was simple: could he do it again?

So far, it looks like a yes. It’s early and the season hasn’t been without struggles; the offense mustered just 12 yards in a very weird second half against the Rams in Week 1, and didn’t look especially sharp in Week 4. But the latter performance was in a game without four starters on up front and Smith badly limping with a twisted knee.

Through four weeks, Smith is completing 68% of attempts for 846 yards and five touchdowns. He’s thrown one interception — a bad pick against the Panthers, and admittedly on him — but also saw one of the better performances of his Seattle tenure against Detroit (32/41 – 78% — 328 yards, two touchdowns to no interceptions. He tapped into the clutch gene with a game-winning drive in overtime).

The immediate question is whether a knee injury sustained in Week 4 will linger into a big road game in Cincinnati. The more substantial question is whether his play can be maintained against a gauntlet of defenses (Dallas, San Francisco, Philadelphia) in November.

Kenneth Walker III

Ken Walker’s five rushing touchdowns are tied for the second-most in football through four weeks and he’s seventh in total yards, right behind Tennessee’s Derrick Henry. He has yet to rush for 100 yards in a single game, but it hasn’t stopped him from a stellar performance. His best was against the Panthers in Week 3, when he racked up 97 yards on 18 carries (5.4YPC) for a pair of touchdowns. He had another 59 receiving yards, a key block during a George Fant red-zone reception, and did it behind an offensive line short three starters.

Waiting

Dre Jones

It’s not that Dre Jones has been overly quiet, it’s that few might’ve expected a second-stint for Jarran Reed to be splashier than play from Seattle’s priciest free-agent acquisition.

Jones turned it up against the Giants, but can a cohesive day from the defensive line carry over to stronger competition? That’ll be the biggest question facing a front-seven that started the season with some big pass-rush concerns.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

This start is the strangest of the bunch.

The former Ohio State standout looked great in training camp and received high praise from teammates. He underwent surgery to repair a small fracture in his wrist shortly before the start of the season, but even then his quiet debut is surprising.

One possible solution? Seattle Sports host Michael Bumpus would like to see Smith-Njigba get the ball in motion more often. Watch for potential adjustments there coming out of the bye.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks’ Jamal Adams apologizes for outburst after concussion
Seahawks Observations: K.J. Wright on Witherspoon and defense
• Has there even been a CB like Seahawks’ Devon Witherspoon?
• Rost’s Takeaways: How real is Seattle Seahawks’ defensive breakout?

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