The Seattle Seahawks could field one of the NFL’s most exciting cornerback duos in 2023. Tariq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon are capable of stifling opposing passing attacks. While those two ascending talents will undeniably command the boundaries of Seattle’s defense, an interesting positional battle is emerging at nickel.
Veteran cornerback Julian Love signed a two-year contract worth $12 million with the Seahawks in the offseason. Love will attempt to fend off a challenge from sophomore cornerback Coby Bryant. Competition should be fierce throughout training camp and the preseason.
The Seahawks drafted Witherspoon with the No. 5 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft despite signing Love to a multi-year contract approximately one month earlier. Love’s annual average salary of $6 million indicates he has a role to play in Seattle’s secondary.
A 2019 fourth-rounder, Love is an extremely versatile defender that’s capable of playing multiple roles. In 2022, the New York Giants deployed Love as a deep safety, box safety, and nickel corner. Love responded by recording career-high results in tackles (124), tackles for loss (6), and interceptions (3). Love can also thrive as a big nickel in subpackage approaches.
Pro Football Focus credited Love with playing 170 snaps at slot corner last season. He’s plenty capable. Opposing quarterbacks saw a passer rating of just 97 when targeting Love in coverage. He allowed just three touchdowns in coverage all season long and recorded four pass breakups. Love’s athleticism, quality ball skills, and plus-tackling ability make him tailor-made to dominate the slot.
Love will also provide insurance at safety with Jamal Adams continuing to recover from last year’s season-ending torn quad injury. When healthy, Adams is the captain of Seattle’s secondary, a role that suits him nicely when patrolling the field opposite fellow starting safety Quandre Diggs. When Diggs and Adams are both healthy, nickel corner may be Love’s most direct pathway to defensive snaps. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll will want to get all three defenders on the field with consistency.
The No. 109 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Bryant more than handled his own as a fourth-round rookie. Bryant earned significantly more playing time than your average day-three rookie, logging a whopping 756 snaps, which accounted for 65.40% of Seattle’s defensive plays, per Pro Football Reference.
Bryant appeared in all 17 regular-season contests with six starts. The former Cincinnati standout displayed a rare knack for the ball, forcing four fumbles in addition to four pass breakups. Bryant was everywhere, adding 70 tackles and 2.0 sacks to his defensive totals.
Bryant took some typical first-year bumps in coverage, but his season-long performance was tremendous all things considered. If Bryant’s rookie season was any indication, he’s on his way to becoming an excellent football player. He’ll make it difficult for Carroll and defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt to keep him on the sidelines.
The Seahawks possess the personnel necessary to field an elite secondary in 2023. How Love and Bryant are utilized throughout the summer is worth monitoring. Both players are talented enough to command playing time in one of the NFL’s deepest defensive backfields.
- Sep 29, 2023
- Sep 29, 2023