Seahawks Starter Won’t Cede Role to 1st-Round Pick ‘Without a Fight’

Mike Jackson, Devon Witherspoon

Getty Seahawks cornerback Mike Jackson (L) is proving that he's ready to compete against Devon Witherspoon for the starting job this season.

While Geno Smith got to breathe a sigh of relief when the Seattle Seahawks chose not select a quarterback with their No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and instead swerved to pick Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon, the same cannot be said for veteran Mike Jackson.

Every player must earn his spot on the roster, but the Seahawks jumped for Witherspoon in the first-round with the expectation that he’ll start. Sports Illustrated‘s Corbin. K Smith wrote, “If he can’t unseat Jackson, a former fifth-round pick who previously spent time on the team’s practice squad, many would already view the selection as a major whiff for the franchise.”

However, Jackson, 26, battled to earn the starting job over Tre Brown, Artie Burns, and Sidney Jones last year, and based on his performance at OTAs thus far, he’s not giving up his spot to Witherspoon “without a fight,” Smith wrote. “Rather than sulk after the Seahawks drafted Witherspoon, the gritty Jackson went back to work and showed up at offseason workouts in outstanding shape.”

While Witherspoon is easing back into practice due to a previous hamstring injury, Jackson is making the most of his snaps during OTAs, and head coach Pete Carroll has noticed.

Carroll told reporters on Thursday. “I think he’s feeling the confidence that comes from what he accomplished last time around. He played a really solid football last season, did a lot of good stuff, and he comes back and he feels he’s in really good shape and he feels great about it.

“He’s had a fantastic offseason of work. He’s just been on his game, and you can see the experience… He seems like a seasoned veteran to us. He can feel it, and he’s taking a really good leadership role out here.”

After getting signed to the Seahawks practice squad in 2021, injuries led to Jackson becoming a full-time starter opposite Tariq Woolen last season. In 17 games, he recorded 75 total tackles, 12 passes defended, two fumble recoveries, and one interception.

Mike Jackson Is Also Stepping Up While Tariq Woolen Is Out

Woolen underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on May 23 after suffering an “unusual” injury in between plays during the first week of OTAs, Carroll explained on Thursday. The Seahawks moved to re-sign Burns, but Woolen’s absence has proved to be another opportunity for Jackson to shine.

The Athletic‘s Mike Dugar wrote, “Jackson locked everything down during seven-on-seven work in the red zone Thursday,” picking off Smith on a pass intended for receiver Cody Thompson. Later in the drill, he “blanketed Thompson’s double move and swatted away another pass from Smith…. Then Jackson broke up a ball backup quarterback Drew Lock intended for rookie receiver Matt Landers. The receiver quality must be taken into account, but regardless, it’s clear Jackson is playing like a guy with something to prove.”

Carroll said, “The fact that we drafted a guy [like Witherspoon], that sends everybody’s alert up. I think when Tariq stepped out, Mike looked like he said, ‘I’ve got to do my stuff here. I’ve got to take over a little bit here,’ and he did. ”

Seahawks beat reporter John Boyle tweeted, “It’s going to be tough to keep a Pro-Bowl corner and the No. 5 pick off the field, but one thing that has been evident in offseason workouts is that Mike Jackson isn’t giving up his job without putting up one hell of a fight.”

Seahawks Defensive Coordinator Praised Mike Jackson’s Work Ethic

Mike Jackson

GettySeahawks cornerback Mike Jackson intercepts a pass against the New York Jets at Lumen Field on January 01, 2023.

Seahawks defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt is not surprised with how Jackson has reacted to the team picking up Witherspoon. “A lot of people, they kind of relax and go into cruise control,” Hurtt said, per The Athletic. “Jackson has never been like that in the time we’ve had him here.

“He’s always had a consistent work ethic to him and always been humble. To see the steps he made last year, where it was a pleasant surprise to everybody, his work ethic always spoke (to) that. He’s a big, strong kid out there at corner and his game is continuing to get better. I love seeing the confidence from him that we’re seeing now.”

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