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Seahawks breakout candidates: Shaquill Griffin

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San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Welcome back as we continue the mini series looking at breakout candidates from each position group for the Seattle Seahawks!

This time around we’re visiting the group that many people blamed for the Seahawks’ loss to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs - cornerback.

Seattle has just the three contenders (probably) for starting outside corner positions: Shaquill Griffin, Quinton Dunbar (probably), and Tre Flowers. Both Flowers and Griffin took noticeable steps back in their second seasons following impressive rookie years. Griffin seems to have come through his rough patch and became a reliable presence in his third season, even making the Pro Bowl in 2019.

But Shaquill Griffin is still the best candidate for a breakout season because of one category.

Turnovers.

Griffin was the Jadeveon Clowney of the secondary in 2019. He was a solid performer game in and game out, making important plays and completely devoid of the biggest statistic that the average fan wants.

For Clowney, it was sacks; for Griffin, interceptions.

Griffin tied for 789th among qualifying cornerbacks in the NFL in interception rate. Ok, I don’t know how many corners actually get play time, but he had zero picks. None. Tedric Thompson took the ball away from opponents more than Griffin this past season.

To his credit, Griffin has plus recovery abilities:

But the single biggest improvement to Griffin’s game will undoubtedly be if he can convert some of his coverage into turnovers. Griffin has only three career interceptions, and while he improved his game from 2018 to 2019, he had zero last season.

He’s in the ballpark, consistently as one of the top corners in this league playing the ball.

But he’s got to get it done.

Griffin finished the season with 13 passes defensed, putting him in the top third of the league. It’s a tight statistic - two more would have landed him 8th in the NFL.

But every corner ahead of Griffin on that list registered at least one interception, and eight of them also recovered a fumble, something else Griffin didn’t do.

Griffin’s completion percentage allowed is elite. His 57% was actually better than Richard Sherman, Quinton Dunbar, and nearly identical to that allowed by Marcus Peters. It was better than two-time Pro Bowler Casey Hayward of the Chargers or established veteran Tramon Williams of Green Bay.

In fact, Griffin improved in every other meaningful statistic from 2018 to 2019, and that’s not an exaggeration: Completion percentage, yards per completion, yards per target, total TDs, opposing QB rating, air yards, yards after catch - all better.

Everything except interceptions. It’s the only thing that Griffin did not offer to the Seahawks last season.

The lack of picks is more likely a fluke than anything else, but it at least warrants a raised eyebrow. If not, it’s at least something that Griffin can work on without major adjustment needed, as he’s consistently around the ball, making a play on it and within inches of grabbing it. We showed the recovery earlier, and here’s another:

Note it didn’t go into the stat sheet. The big plays are not beyond him, something he’s shown repeatedly. Whether it’s a weird inability to actually catch all the balls he’s swatting or just plain bad luck fans may never know, but if Griffin takes his zero interception number up to something like three or four, he’s going to turn his Pro Bowl alternate season into a monster performance, and a potential monster contract as a free agent next spring.