After a disappointing sophomore season, one that was a result of a new position, added weight and an injury at the end of the season, Shaquill Griffin faced heavy scrutiny. Not helping his perception was the promise shown by Tre Flowers as a rookie—while raw, the argument could have been made that Flowers had a higher ceiling than Griffin, who remains the highest-selected cornerback of the Pete Carroll era. However, he was deemed worthy of a relatively high pick for a reason and so, patience was preached.
Three quarters of the way through his third season, that patience has been rewarded as Shaquill Griffin, the number-one cornerback in the style Seattle has become famous for, has arrived.
Though he remains without an interception on the season—at least one that hasn’t been called back due to penalty—Griffin’s play has been nothing short of outstanding. According to Sports Info Solutions, Griffin has allowed a completion percentage of 52.5 when targeted in 2019, and just 5.8 yards per target (while on pace to be targeted just eight times less than his career high). And while interceptions have yet to come, Griffin’s 14 pass breakups are just one off his career high. That’s included breakups that are technically clean:
Shaquill Griffin Is Very Good™️ pic.twitter.com/luZzwUpgFg— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) October 15, 2019
And simply incredible:
It is the opinion of this account that Shaquill Griffin is perfect pic.twitter.com/KcQs2kxaHT— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) November 14, 2019
The nature of Carroll’s defensive system will see wide receivers pick up receptions against the Seahawks’ defense, such is the focus on staying on top of everything. In that regard, Griffin’s low yards allowed after the catch reflects very well on him: According to Pro Football Reference, he has allowed just 97 yards in that area in 2019, a 16-game pace that’s 113 yards off what he allowed in 2018. That much improved number tells us Griffin’s positioning has been superb, and that has matched the eye test:
Don't let the TD distract you from Shaquill Griffin sticking with Odell Beckham 30 yards downfield pic.twitter.com/iqh74i1FyY— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) October 15, 2019
Expectations were rightly sky high for Griffin ahead of 2018, but unfortunately, the switch to left cornerback was a major issue—understandably so—and it hampered his positioning and his ability to find the football. His comfort is completely obvious to see in his second year on the left, and the 96th percentile athleticism he entered the league with, at 196 pounds, has seemingly returned after a 2018 played at 212 pounds:
Look at a SPRY Shaquill Griffin sticking in JuJu Smith-Schuster's hip pocket through multiple breaks. Seahawks' secondary is returning to the Pro Bowl in the year 2019(/20) pic.twitter.com/9WSWNACmRm— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) September 18, 2019
Shaquill Griffin's increased comfort in year two at LCB is obvious, and he's breaking on routes with confidence at every level of the field. Halted the Cards' opening drive here: pic.twitter.com/svlTBQERyz— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) October 1, 2019
As far as cornerback play goes, one can’t truly be a Pete Carroll cornerback without bringing the same tenacity against the run as they do against the pass; Griffin is passing that test week-in and week-out, too. He’s on pace for the most tackles of his career, and has consistently been both physical and, crucially, disciplined in the tackle against the run in 2019:
During Richard Sherman’s time in Seattle, his mentorship of young players became just as revered by fans and the team alike as his brash, unapologetic play. Sherman was instrumental in Griffin’s development as a rookie, and continued to be after the former’s departure. Here’s what Griffin had to say about Sherman in September 2018:
“He’s a brother to me. So when I call him and text him, I’m calling an older brother. That’s how I look at it. The way he helped me, he helped me as in, ‘I’m helping my little brother.’”
In turn, Griffin has adopted a similar approach with the cornerback who ostensibly replaced Sherman, Tre Flowers. As early as last August, Griffin was taking Flowers under his wing to teach the new cornerback Carroll’s famous kick-step technique.
Shaquem Griffin is rooming with Tre Flowers for camp, says Shaquill is in their room all the time, and Flowers is always asking to work on the kick step and asking questions— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) August 3, 2018
The great environment Flowers landed in no doubt played a part in the converted safety’s ability to come in and start 26 of his first 28 NFL games, and the mentorship he has received from the secondary’s best performer played a part in Flowers’ terrific interception against the Vikings:
Carroll says Tre Flowers showed extraordinary step-kick technique on his INT. "It was a perfect play."— Ben Arthur (@benyarthur) December 3, 2019
But with Richard Sherman as the prototype, the Seahawks’ lockdown corner wouldn’t be complete without bringing an edge and a knowing swagger to his game, and Griffin has done just that in 2019. We saw a great example of that unwavering confidence against the Buccaneers—a trying game for both Flowers and Griffin—celebrating a perfectly played pass breakup by clasping his hands behind his head and leisurely laying back:
Tough day statistically for Griffin and Flowers because of the assignments + lack of adjustments from Seattle, but Griffin especially had a few great plays. This was the best of them pic.twitter.com/UEI72Ofrvg— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) November 6, 2019
It took on a new level in front of the country in Week 13, with Griffin showing in prime-time both why he deserves an All-Pro selection, and that he damn well knows it.
Griffin has rewarded Seattle’s faith in him by delivering a 2019 season which should, at the very least, culminate in his first Pro-Bowl selection, if not a greater honor. In turn, one can expect the Seahawks to reward Griffin with a contract extension this offseason when he becomes eligible for one. A new deal will be a matter of when, not if, and when it does arrive, it will be completely deserved for Seattle’s new lockdown cornerback.