How Seahawks CB Devon Witherspoon wowed new teammate

May 23, 2024, 1:54 PM | Updated: 2:41 pm

Seattle Seahawks Devon Witherspoon Tyler Lockett...

Tyler Lockett, Devon Witherspoon and Bobby Wagner celebrate the Seattle Seahawks' Nov. 12 win. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Even in the non-padded environment of a May OTA practice, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon’s immense talent stands out.

Just ask one of his newest secondary mates.

Seahawks busy learning Mike Macdonald’s ‘really creative’ defense

Veteran safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who signed with Seattle in March after spending the past seven seasons with the Chargers and Jaguars, is already impressed by what he’s seen from the 23-year-old Witherspoon.

“His breaking on the ball is just elite,” Jenkins said Wednesday after the Seahawks’ second OTA practice. “Like, it’s some of the best I’ve probably ever seen. I was literally just thinking about it today. I saw him break up two passes. The receiver had a step or two on him, and (his) closing speed is crazy. He just gets right to the ball, undercuts the ball. So he’s gonna make a lot of plays, as he’s been doing coming off last season.”

After being selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 draft, the 6-foot, 185-pound Witherspoon was a rookie sensation for Seattle last year. The Illinois product split time between left cornerback and the nickel corner spot, showcasing his wide-ranging skill set while excelling both in coverage and making impact plays around the line of scrimmage.

As a Pro Bowler last season, Witherspoon tied for fifth in the NFL with 16 pass breakups. He posted three sacks, which was tied for the most among all cornerbacks in the league. He also had eight tackles for loss, tied for second among cornerbacks. And he finished the year with an 84.1 Pro Football Focus defensive grade, which ranked sixth among cornerbacks.

Witherspoon’s breakout game came in a 24-3 Monday Night Football win over the Giants in Week 4, when he had two sacks and a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown. It made him just the 27th player in NFL history to record multiple sacks and a pick-six in the same game.

After Wednesday’s OTA practice, new Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald was asked what he likes about Witherspoon – specifically in terms of his talent at the nickel cornerback spot.

“I mean, where do I start?” Macdonald said with a smile. “Great feel for the game. He picks things up really quick, but just understands ball and plays at a really, really fast speed. At nickel, there’s a lot of action in there, and so when guys have that type of skill set, you can kind of get them around the action as much as possible. So he’ll do all the things. He’ll blitz, man, zone, play the deep area of the field.”

An even better fit in Macdonald’s scheme?

As impressive as Witherspoon’s rookie season was, there’s hope that he can be even better in Macdonald’s cutting-edge defense. Witherspoon’s vast skill set could make him a perfect fit for Macdonald’s scheme, which features a unique level of positional versatility that allows the defense to constantly mix pressures and confuse opposing offenses.

Huard breaks down why Seahawks’ new defense will look like ‘a blur’

During Monday’s edition of Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, former NFL quarterback Brock Huard heaped praise on Witherspoon and viewed him as a player who could go from good to great under Macdonald. He even mentioned a former Seahawks great – three-time All-Pro safety Earl Thomas.

“You hired a defensive guy with a brilliant mind that’s gonna put him in new and creative places and is going to demand of him to take another step,” Huard said. “My whole offseason narrative is who’s gonna go from good to great? … And if Devon Witherspoon goes from good to great, I think he’s got that Earl Thomas-like igniter (in him). Earl Thomas went from a good free safety to a great free safety to a defining free safety back there that every team had to deal with and plan for.

“Spoon is not a free safety, but he’s a nickel. And in today’s NFL, that nickel can be a linebacker, he can be a cover guy, he can be a blitzer, he can be an igniter – an impact player that you’ve got to deal with. Spoon, to me, is just off the charts.”

More Seattle Seahawks coverage

• Salk’s Observations: What we saw at Seahawks’ first open OTA practice
• Geno Smith on Hawks’ new-look offense: ‘Great things coming for us’
Huard: The Seahawks position group most thrilled by new schemes
• Ranked: Who are Seahawks’ five most irreplaceable players?
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How Seahawks CB Devon Witherspoon wowed new teammate