Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon is ready to move on from his challenging sophomore season with a plan to be a consistent force opposite of Richard Sherman.
Witherspoon stood out enough in his rookie year to be invited to workout with Sherman and his fellow Pro-Bowl cornerbacks, Aqib Talib, Darius Slay, Xavier Rhodes. Things did not go as smoothly in 2018.
Witherspoon, however, has already put the last season behind him and looks to improve his game with the help of new defensive backs coach, Joe Woods. He explained what they have been focusing on.
“Just technique,” Witherspoon said. “When you have the skill that I do, the ability that I do, you tend to get away from technique just because you’re physically gifted. And this league demands that you’re technical at all times, or else you will be exposed.
“That’s probably the biggest focus just giving myself the best opportunity to be successful.”
While Witherspoon appears quite confident in his physical abilities, he also addressed how he needed to adjust the mental aspect of his game. He explained what he learned from having so much momentum after his first NFL season.
“Just being consistent,” Witherspoon said. “That you’ve never arrived in this league having a good rookie year. It’s time to take that to the next level and not regress.”
Even after only a few OTA practices in the books, Witherspoon spoke about how he is looking forward to an improved pass rush with the addition of Dee Ford and Nick Bosa to the team. His job becomes much different, only have to cover for two or three seconds as opposed to four or five.
“They are holding onto the ball right now because they aren’t getting hit in the neck,” Witherspoon said. “It doesn’t really show up yet, but when you start watching film, that’s when you see it.”
Who will play opposite of Sherman will be determined later in training camp but the stage seems to be set for Witherspoon to be battling Jason Verrett once the veteran is healthy. Witherspoon will be learning as much as he can from both vets as the offseason continues.
The most important thing he learned might have been watching what Sherman was able to accomplish while being hobbled from the recovery of his Achilles injury.
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“Just how successful you can be if your mental is in the right place, and the details,” Witherspoon said. “Because you talk about the physical ability, if the mental isn’t there if your approach isn’t there, it’s not going to do anything for you.
“Same thing, if some physical ability isn’t there if you’re lacking a step here or there, if you have the mental approach and the mental presence he does, you can be successful.”