Seahawks need more sacks — would a bigger role for Shaquem Griffin help?

Apr 9, 2020, 12:54 AM
Seahawks LB Shaquem Griffin...
The Seahawks used Shaquem Griffin as a pass rusher more late last season. (Getty)

The big discussion about this Seahawks offseason is centered around their pass rush. That’s resulted in an incredible amount of analysis and speculation looking at free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and other big-name pass rushers Seattle could bring in to replace him.

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There’s an important reason for all of the attention on that area of the Seahawks’ defense, however, which is because they need to find a way to improve upon their lowly sack total from the 2019 season. The thing is, what if there’s untapped potential already on the roster that could do just that?

On Tuesday, that line of thinking led 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Dave and Moore to discuss third-year linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who has mostly been a special teams player in his pro career but did start making appearances – and turning heads – coming off the edge as a pass rusher in the later part of last season.

Former NFL linebacker Dave Wyman said he was “surprised it took that long” for Seattle to start using Griffin in that role in passing situations because of what he called “by far his best asset.”

“Let him use his speed,” Wyman said. “That’s what he has off the edge. … I was just surprised that they didn’t start off the year in camp having him just rush the passer because I don’t think he’s very effective dropping back into zones or in coverage (as a linebacker). Just have him do one thing. Come off the edge, develop your repertoire. You get a spin move, you get a rip move, you get a swim, all these different things and just let him work on them over and over. Hopefully that’s what they do going into this season.”

Griffin will always be undersized at his position – he’s listed as 6 feet tall and 227 pounds, which isn’t all that much bigger than his twin brother and teammate, Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin (6 feet, 198 pounds). Wyman said that limits when Seattle could use him on the edge, but he thinks there’s a role for him that could result in three or four sacks a season.

“You’re not gonna want to line him up on third-and-short for sure or on the goal line. He is a smaller linebacker. Use his speed.”

Jim Moore is optimistic Griffin could be a surprise standout in 2020, especially considering his outstanding college numbers at Central Florida, where he 18 1/2 sacks and 33 1/2 tackles for a loss combined over his junior and senior seasons, though Moore acknowledges that was against lesser competition in the Atlantic Athletic Conference than what a lot of top-line NFL players saw in college.

“We talk about L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, other young guys next year that might bring those sack totals up, but I’m looking at Shaquem Griffin as being a possible answer. It might be a long shot,” Moore said.

Bob Stelton said he remains unsure what Seattle’s plan was when they picked Griffin in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, a year after they took his brother in the third round.

“I would love to know what they saw in him when they drafted him, and I don’t mean that as in I don’t see anything in him. I’m curious what their thought was,” Stelton said. “Like, OK, this guy’s going to be a great guy off the edge, or maybe they thought he’s going to be a great traditional linebacker and he could drop into coverage. I would just love to know what the plan is.

“They spent draft capital on him for a reason. And I know everybody thinks, ‘Oh, they were just trying to appease Shaquill.’ Listen, I think they put way too much value on their draft picks regardless of the round to do something like that. They don’t draft anybody unless they think they are going to have an impact. It just didn’t seem like they had a definitive plan attached to him, so that would be my question to Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider). Like, when you watched this guy and you scouted him and you said ‘Let’s take him,’ what were you thinking? How did you envision using him? Because to this point, that’s not clear.”

Wyman has a theory on how Seattle’s head coach and general manager have approached Griffin, though he made clear that it was only a theory.

“Pete and John get along great and you never hear of anybody pointing fingers or anything like that, but they do disagree. That’s just human nature. Maybe they had different ideas on (how to use Griffin),” Wyman said. “Maybe Pete and his staff didn’t think that he was as good of a pass rusher as John and his staff thought. For John, he’s trying to get the right player and it’s up to Pete to get him to work.

“From what I saw, I felt like he was pretty lost at linebacker. Playing on the second level, I don’t think he played a lot of that – most of the really good things he did at Central Florida were coming off the edge. Maybe he’s a guy that just was misused, and if he comes in and has that speed rush, it’s definitely going to cause disruption. … He’s one of those pure pass rushers. Get him out there, coach him up. … I feel like they could really get something out of him other than just the excellent special teams play they’re getting from him.”

You can listen to the full conversation beginning around the 22-minute mark in this podcast.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Dave and Moore on Twitter.

More Seahawks offseason coverage

Draft prospects: Would Auburn DL Davidson fit in Seattle?
Heaps: To replace ‘blue-chip’ Clowney, Hawks would need Ngakoue
Brock Huard breaks down the 7 picks from our Seahawks mock draft
Why Ray Roberts is impressed by Seahawks’ O-line additions
Seahawks 2020 offseason tracker

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Seahawks need more sacks — would a bigger role for Shaquem Griffin help?