Vying to start, Seahawks rookie Shaquill Griffin takes ‘a good first step’
Asked last week about what he’s seen in training camp from Shaquill Griffin, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the rookie has displayed the mentality that it takes for a cornerback to play across from Richard Sherman. What Carroll meant was that Griffin looks like he can handle the pressure of being picked on, so to speak, as quarterbacks stay away from the All-Pro on the other side.
Griffin got a small taste of that in Seattle’s preseason opener Sunday night when he was thrown at twice on the Chargers’ first possession.
On the first attempt, he ran stride-for-stride with the receiver down the sideline and was in his hip pocket when the ball arrived. Griffin didn’t turn his head around and the ball hit his hand for an incompletion. That drive ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates, who caught it in between Griffin and free safety Earl Thomas.
Griffin started at right cornerback with Jeremy Lane still out and played 30 plays on defense, fourth-most on the team. He also played seven snaps on special teams.
“He held up. That’s all I know. He had a chance to make a play on Gates down there. So his first shot at a hall of famer, he didn’t get it done,” Carroll said with a laugh. “But I thought he did OK. He had another fade ball that was a nice play that he wasn’t in great position on. But the fact that he made it through his playing time against some guys (that) were taking some shots at him, it’s a good first step.”
Gates caught his touchdown on an in-breaking route that took him into what appeared to be Griffin’s zone. Griffin said in an interview on the postgame show that he should have slowed down his backpedal and not drifted as far outside.
“That’s the type of play that we’re going to see all season,” he told Jen Mueller. “That’s something that me, Earl and Sherm and (strong safety Kam Chancellor) are going to get a chance to work through in practice and continue to work on it so next time it won’t happen.”
Griffin, a third-round pick, is competing to be one of Seattle’s top three cornerbacks this season, whether that means starting on the right side or coming in to play there when Seattle goes to nickel and brings in an extra defensive back. Lane is in that mix as is another veteran, Neiko Thorpe. Seattle is also bringing in former 49ers starter Tramaine Brock for a visit this week, so Griffin locking down one of those spots is by no means a given.
That would mark a first of sorts for the Seahawks. No rookie cornerback under Carroll and general manager John Schneider has earned a starting role by Week 1, not even Sherman, who didn’t enter the starting lineup until midway through his rookie season in 2011. One possible factor in that trend is that is that the technique Seattle teaches its cornerbacks tends to have a steep learning curve.
That’s still a work in progress for Griffin, but the preseason is only one week in.
“I feel like each game we go, I’m going to get more and more comfortable,” he said, “get a chance to learn different concepts and I feel like I’m going to fit right in.”