Devon Witherspoon: Seattle Seahawks Adding 'Our Own Little Flavor' to Mike Macdonald's Defense

Already an elite weapon as a rookie last season, Witherspoon may be primed for a superstar campaign in a defense that will look to maximize his unique skillset.
Oct 22, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon (21) celebrates after the defense made a play against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at Lumen Field.
Oct 22, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon (21) celebrates after the defense made a play against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at Lumen Field. / Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
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Despite having just one season in Pete Carroll’s defense, Seattle Seahawks 2023 No. 5 overall pick Devon Witherspoon was wildly effective in his rookie campaign. The uber-talented cornerback earned a Pro Bowl nod, a Defensive Rookie of the Month award in October and finished fourth in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

Now, under new head coach Mike Macdonald, the second-year cornerback will be deployed in a defensive system that thrives off of high-energy, hard-hitting gadget players like Witherspoon, who primarily played in the slot as a nickel corner a season ago. While there's room left to grow heading towards training camp, the second-year corner loves where the defense is at right now.

“We’re starting to catch our swag with [the defense], add our own little flavor to it. But we’re getting comfortable with it really fast, faster than what we thought we would. But yeah, we’re kind of getting it down pat now.”

Devon Witherspoon

Witherspoon was the sixth highest-graded corner last season among players with at least 300 snaps, per Pro Football Focus, at 84.1. He also graded out third in rushing the passer (90.8 grade) with his 10 total pressures and league-high three sacks from the cornerback position (tied with Kansas City’s Trent McDuffie), wreaking havoc in all phases.

In addition to his pass rush stats, Witherspoon concluded his rookie season with 79 combined tackles, eight tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and one interception, which he returned for a 97-yard touchdown versus the Giants in Week 4.

Under Macdonald last season, the Ravens became the first defense in NFL history to lead the league in points allowed, sacks, and takeaways in the same season. Witherspoon said he has been watching a lot of Baltimore’s 2023 tape to get acquainted with the system and see “what they were thinking in certain situations.”

“We plan on building on that and just trying to do a little bit better in our own style. It is going to be fun this year. Just wait on it.”

As a rookie, Witherspoon played 57 percent of his snaps in the slot after Week 3, per PFF. He still had games where he would play predominantly on the outside, but Witherspoon’s skillset and desire to impact Seattle’s run defense lends itself to the nickel role. Also, Witherspoon prefers it.

“You get more involved in the run game, able to blitz, [things] that we’re running with the D-line, the pass game. You get a little bit of everything. So that’s why I like nickel.”

Devon Witherspoon

Witherspoon declined to offer much about what his role will be in the new defense, stating it was up to Macdonald, but he did say they will be doing “a lot of different things” with him and others in the scheme.

Even last season, in Week 18 versus Arizona, Witherspoon played 38 snaps at nickel, 18 off the defensive line in the box, 11 at wide corner, and two at the line of scrimmage outside the tackles, per PFF. That versatility is exactly what Macdonald will be looking to take advantage of.

After missing three games last season, Witherspoon said his top priority is staying healthy so he can play all 17 games. Beyond that, he is just hoping to have fewer missed opportunities on the field.

“I’m trying to make sure I get through the whole season healthy and then I’m just really trying to build on [last year]," Witherspoon remarked. "I left a lot of plays out there on the table that I wish I had back, so just trying to make those plays this year.”

Witherspoon leads a talented returning group at cornerback that features Riq Woolen, Tre Brown, Mike Jackson and Artie Burns — all of whom played at least 200 snaps last season. That group dominated in minicamp, including Woolen, Jackson, and Burns all intercepting passes in Wednesday's final session.

As the anchor of that group, Witherspoon can't wait to see what the Seahawks are able to do with Macdonald at the controls and ready to unleash the cornerback group as one of the biggest strengths for the team heading into 2024.

“I’m excited to see what everybody’s going to do. Everybody’s trying to build off the season that they had last year. A lot of people left a lot of plays [on the field], like I said, so everybody’s just ready to get to work for real, and just show the world who we really are.”


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Connor Benintendi

CONNOR BENINTENDI