Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Oct 2009

Eagles Pick Up Will Witherspoon

The Philadelphia Eagles acquired Will Witherspoon from the St. Louis Rams today, giving up wideout Brandon Gibson and a fifth-round pick.

Hat tip goes to our friend Sheil Kapadia's Twitter page.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 20 Oct 2009

19 comments, Last at 21 Oct 2009, 4:41pm by chemical burn


by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 4:30pm

Any Rams fans out there care to let me know whether his decline in production last year was injury related or if he's just in natural age-related decline? What kind of player are the Eagles getting? Are we just adding another aging, washed-up liability to complement Trotter?

Brandon Gibson looked fantastic in the preseason - I can easily imagine him turning into a very productive starter, especially for a team as weak at wideout as the Rams..

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 4:33pm

A couple of years ago I felt bad for him as I thought he was the lone defender surrounded by trash. Well Little is alright, Glover WAS alright, Chavious was a smart S, Long and Carriker will be the future but Spags has some rebuilding to do.

Would you say the Zack Miller play did it or that was a mere symptom and not the cause?

by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 4:38pm

The Zack Miller play started the ball rolling and Gaither being injured clinched it.

by Joe M. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 5:02pm

Sheesh, if he was available, why didn't the Bears give this one a shot... they need LBs far more than PHI does, I'd think ...

by The Human Spider :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 5:13pm

Probably because Chicago didn't have any wide receivers (that Chicago was willing to trade) that interested the Rams.

by c_f (not verified) :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 12:23am

That plus:

1) They presumably feel content with Roach at Mike, and that Witherspoon could not play Sam in Lovie's defense.

2) They really don't have any draft picks to spare after inexplicably trading for Gaines Adams.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 5:35pm

I always felt that Witherspoon was overrated with the Panthers and Rams but hhe is a servicable veteran who'll be a big upgrade over what the Eagles had in place.

The Eagles love their big run stuffing Mike, which makes me wonder if Gocong would be the more natural in the middle of Philly's defense with Witherspoon outside.

by Currently Anonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 5:40pm

I don't have my copy of 09 Almanac with me at work, so does anyone know how Witherspoon graded out last year? God I hope he was good in pass coverage...

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 8:48am

We only talk about the winners and forget the losers.

by SoulardX (not verified) :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 5:41pm

Chemical burn, WW is NOT a MLB, which is why his production was so bad last year. He played WLB in Carolina and his first year in STL when he saw his best year. At WLB again this year, he was having a decent season.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, FO, if the Rams win ZERO games this year--and that's very likely--by what percentage will you miss your predicted mean wins for the Rams? Man, you guys blew it there and as a Rams fan that really hurts......

by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 9:03pm

Yeah, reading a little more about Witherspoon, he seems like an ok player, but it will be a not-so-great idea to put him in at MLB. For whatever reason, Reid doesn't mind undersized MLB's (like Simoneau or Gaither) and Witherspoon is only 235lbs. At this point, our d-line is so strong against the run (especially Patterson and Bunkley) that I'm willing as a fan to sacrfice a little bit of run support for decent coverage skills and veteran intelligence. At very least, everyone seems to agree that Witherspoon will be at least ok in those regards. (and if push comes to shove, they can put in Trotter in goal-line situations).

Also, getting rid of Gibson and Baskett and Curtis being injured, their WR corp is suddenly pretty thin, one more injury and they're in a bit of trouble. And with the way Eagles are dropping like flies this season, another injury would just be par for the course...

by tbone in STL (not verified) :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 9:49pm

Will Witherspoon is not a great cover guy, but he can blitz. He's also great as a team player. Good pickup and the Eagles didn't really give up much.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 10:26pm

argh - but they need a cover guy and don't need another blitzer! well, there's almost no way he could be as bad as Trotter...

by typhil21 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 11:07am

Just so you guys know witherspoon had 100+ tackles 2 of last 3 seasons at MLB and is a very good coverage LB last 3 full seasons 298 tackles 18 passes defensed 5 FF 11 sacks 1 INT a very versatile fast LB

by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 12:32pm

>by tbone in STL (not verified) :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 9:49pm
>Will Witherspoon is not a great cover guy, but he can blitz. He's also great as a
>team player. Good pickup and the Eagles didn't really give up much.

>by typhil21 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 11:07am>
>Just so you guys know witherspoon had 100+ tackles 2 of last 3 seasons at MLB and
>is a very good coverage LB last 3 full seasons 298 tackles 18 passes defensed 5 FF
>11 sacks 1 INT a very versatile fast LB

Which is the reality? I would like to go with the numbers guy, but I do not want to fool myself.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 1:56pm

I've been looking for the answer and the numbers guy seems to be correct (about the numbers and playing MLB, at any rate). What I can't find is an explanation for why Witherspoon only started 12 games last year. He doesn't seem to have been injured and his per-start production wasn't down in any significant way (certainly not enough to warrant a benching)...

All of the talk about him being a WILL and not a MIKE seems to be very over-stated: he's been playing MLB (and competently) for years now. I think he looks like a good stop-gap at MLB for the year and then can either be moved over to WILL or just kept around for utility (depth at linebacker wouldn't be a bad thing for the Eagles)...

Everybody's saying the Eagles got a 3-down linebacker, which is all that is important for the moment. There seems to be no need to hide Witherspoon in coverage or worry that he's soft in the run defense (and he led the Rams in sacks one year, too, so he can be brought on the blitz)...

by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 4:32pm

IIRC, Witherspoon hurt his shoulder last year, and after accumulating other minor injuries eventually sat out some.

by tuluse :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 2:57pm


Based on FO's stats he was awful against the pass last year, great the year before, and average the year before that.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 4:41pm

I was actually just looking at Witherspoon vs. Stewart Bradley. Their numbers are remarkably similar for each of their last full seasons played (2007 for Witherspoon and 2008 for Bradley). All indications seem to be that Witherspoon has recovered this season from his 2008 injuries, so best case scenario is that he does something approaching his 2007 stats.

Again, those 2007 stats (at MLB) are remarkably similar in all phases to Bradley's first full season last year as a starter. For Witherspoon 2004, 2006 & 2007 look like his best seasons - again his stats are all very similar in those years to Bradley's - so there's no clear trend of decline in his skills. If he's back from injury (and all reports seem to indicate he is), the Eagles have probably patched up their biggest hole on defense...