Shaquill Griffin hasn’t had an easy go of it. Since the Seattle Seahawks drafted him in the 2017 NFL Draft’s third round, the expectations heaped upon him have been insurmountable. As a rookie, Griffin flashed potential but struggled mightily. In year two, he underwent a position change — Richard Sherman’s departure for the Bay allowed the young cornerback to assume his post on the left side of Seattle’s defense — and, while he looked great to begin the season, the tolls of an NFL season resulted in more negative plays than positive.
Public perception of Griffin has been strikingly low heading into his 2019. Many believe sophomore corner Tre Flowers to have a higher ceiling (which is certainly a possibility) and have all but given up on Shaquill’s “destiny” to become an All Pro player.
A lackluster performance against Adam Thielen did nothing to help his stock this preseason.
Reports from training camp were less than glowing; it was even suggested at one point that Griffin could potentially lose his spot in the starting lineup.
Thank goodness football fans don’t overreact to anything remotely unfavorable that ever happens ever.
In the Seahawks’ first regular season action of 2019, Griffin looked reborn; a stiff yet explosive athlete with a necessary tinge of flexibility to stick with his opponents. Facing the Bengals’ receiving corps — led by John Ross and Tyler Boyd, with A.J. Green sidelined by injury — proved surprisingly formidable for Seattle; Quill’s running mate, Tre Flowers, was picked on all throughout the game. While that isn’t to say Flowers performed badly, it wasn’t close to the comfortability and execution exhibited by Griffin on a per snap basis.
For defensive backs, wasted movement is death; one false step, one turn of the head in the wrong direction, one inkling of doubt can lead to a chunk gain or far worse. After switching from right to left cornerback in 2018, it was clear that Shaquill struggled to literally mirror the technique he had been taught the year prior. It was more than reassuring to witness serenity by Griffin within Seattle’s scheme on Sunday. Watch as he decisively passes his man off to a charging McDougald before carrying the opposite receiver into the deep middle third:
Griffin’s knowledge of his responsibility is apparent. The following rep does nothing but confirm this notion:
Cincinnati runs two verticals on the right side of the field against Seattle’s Cover 3, with Griffin carrying the outermost wideout. The slot receiver runs a deep out, drawing the attention of both K.J. Wright and Tedric Thompson. This leaves the inner streak — John Ross, who is, in fact, very fast — all alone, as Bradley McDougald is late to rotate over. Griffin manages to stay on top of C.J. Uzomah, keeping his eyes on the quarterback the entire time. When Andy Dalton fires the pass, Griffin leaves Uzomah and prevents a potential touchdown to Ross; despite the Bengals flooding his zone, he covers both men effortlessly.
Quill’s most impressive rep of the game came on a play that wasn’t even a play:
Our king, emperor, titan, overlord Jadeveon Clowney jumps offsides, allowing Dalton to take a risk-free deep shot to Ross, who is, again, very fast. With nothing on the line for Cincinnati and everything on the line for Seattle, Griffin remains stride-for-stride with his opponent’s breakneck fly route before parrying the intended scythe. The impressive mix of athleticism and technique to stick with Ross is just that: impressive. In 2018, this results in a touchdown.
Griffin hasn’t generated a turnover since a two-pick game against the Bears early in 2018. Yes, deflections are preferable to completions. But to take the next step, these defensed passes must morph into interceptions. Pete Carroll lives and dies by the mantra “it’s all about the ball,” and Griffin must find a way to oblige.
Despite what can only be described as an exciting progression, lapses still reveal themselves at times.
Nothing detrimental stems from Griffin turning the wrong direction here, but this is the sort of thing that can make all the difference on a critical third down in Week 16.
After two years of mid-tier startership, Shaquill has raised the bar for himself and the rest of Seattle’s secondary. He exhibited similarly-impressive results just a year ago, but a quick fade into mediocrity tempered expectations. If the Seahawks have any hope of fielding a competitive defense in 2019, Griffin must cast the unattainable benchmark of Richard Sherman aside and sustain this standard of play past September.