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Devon Witherspoon vs Sauce Gardner, a comparison of rooks

Witherspoon’ stats were remarkable in more than one facet of defense.

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

Devon Witherspoon emerged as one of the few bright spots on defense for the 2023 Seattle Seahawks.

His rookie year was truly impressive, even more so when we consider how much of the summer he missed and how he gave up a trick-play touchdown in his first career game against the Detroit Lions.

Since it was popular to compare 2022’s Riq Woolen to Sauce Gardner, take a look this time at Witherspoon vs Gardner’s rookie seasons.

It’s always fun to see how often an NFL season tends to sort itself out, with micro-differences being where we spend most our mental energy.

Witherspoon and Gardner even had 79 and 75 tackles, respectively.

The early statistics point towards one meaningful nod in Spoon’s favor, but before that let’s acknowledge the biggest point for Sauce that’s not in the chart above. Gardner’s Passer Rating allowed was a puny 62.7 while Witherspoon allowed 87.9. The overwhelming majority of that point differential will come from Witherspoon’s 5 TD allowed against Gardner’s 1.

I found myself frustrated by only a couple of those touchdowns on Witherspoon’s end, with one being the trick play and the rest really just feeling like complete ineptitude from the entire defense late in the season - and they did come late in the season.

The thing that really stands out is Witherspoon is a far more complete player. Be as mad as you want about the missed tackles (12), this year Gardner regressed and missed more (14). But outside of those - and again I would blame higher powers - Witherspoon’s elite at multiple facets of the game.

Three sacks as a rookie. Five additional pressures and one hurry.
Eight tackles for loss.
He hits like this:

All while giving up fewer air yards (214 vs 277).

Devon Witherspoon may give up a few points to Gardner in terms of the better pure coverage corner, that remains to be seen. He also may occasionally be overaggressive and lose a completion or two accordingly.

But the tackling and ability to play up on the line and in the slot is what made him so fun this year. The fact that he was that good in coverage and against the run and as a blitzer is silly.

Dude’s going to be a great bonus for New Coach to utilize next season.