This was meant to be a post about how Shaquem Griffin deserves more snaps. Given the nature of the Seattle Seahawks defense, that required me to explain why Griffin is likely better than Jordyn Brooks. Well something happened on my way to a sideways hit job on the rookie. He impressed the hell out of me. First let’s talk about Quem.
Griffin played 17 snaps and 11 of those came in Dallas’s final drive. In those 11 snaps, Shaquem pressured Dak Prescott into a scramble, twice pressured Prescott into targeting his shortest route (both completions actually cost Dallas EPA), landed a hit on the second pressure, snuffed out a screen to Ezekiel Elliott for a loss of two, broke up a pass to Cedric Wilson, and provided decent underneath coverage on the Alton Robinson sack.
If you tally all that up, subtracting no value for Prescott scrambling successfully, adding no value for merely adequate coverage on the Robinson sack, and giving him full value for Joe Looney’s penalty which robbed him of his tackle for a loss, Griffin added 1.66 points. He played exceptionally well.
Those 11 snaps represent nearly 7% of his regular season snaps in three seasons. While I am more than willing to admit that coaches have more complete info about how a player is performing, I am becoming more and more worried that Griffin has been pigeonholed into a role that’s somewhere between last resort pass rusher and mascot. He deserves better than that. The drafting of Brooks threatened to either permanently bury Quem on the depth chart or lead to his departure.
That’s a false dilemma in my opinion. I see no absolute reason both players can’t see the field at the same time, because apart from Jamal Adams, Quem and Brooks are likely Seattle’s best situational blitzers. For now injury has cut the Gordian Knot, but when Brooks returns, I hope Seattle doesn’t fall into the narrow thinking of either/or. As for Brooks, it wasn’t really so much what he did as how he did it.
Not to be the comptroller of NFL statistics, but the two stats awarded Brooks are mighty dubious. He was credited with a pass breakup accomplished by Benson Mayowa:
And he got a tackle for essentially falling on Amari Cooper after Shaquill Griffin had tripped him up. Which means that, by at least my accounting, Brooks had nothing in the way of what we might call “production.” But he flashed. Kid flashed.
In half of his snaps Brooks blitzed. Pro Football Reference records him as having blitzed seven times but never achieving a sack, hit or pressure. That may be true, but tell me this isn’t promising.
The broadcast footage provides the best angle for this play. Brooks flied around left end and worked through Elliott’s block sending the back to the ground. Though he’s staggering from the hit a bit, his weight far too far over his feet, he showed relatively impressive quickness closing on Prescott.
Here he is discarding and quickly moving around Cowboys’ left tackle Brandon Knight. Shaquill gets the pick, Reed gets the pressure to (kind of) force the pick, but Brooks creates the space for Reed to get that pressure.
The last snap I saw Brooks in was Mayowa’s fumble recovery/interception. He absorbed a benign-looking angle block by Zack Martin, but you know how it is with knees.
It hardly seems to make sense what causes injury and what’s quickly overcome.
Brooks didn’t really do a lot. At times he looked equally quick and unsure of where to go. Development is dicey, and I cannot say whatsoever whether he will ever realize his talent. But that talent is real. Brooks moves at a different speed than every other member of Seattle’s front seven. He’s got bend and he’s got the kind of pop in his hands to separate. This might be a mirage caused by inferior competition, but I think Brooks can rush the passer.
There was good reason to fear Seattle’s pass rush would not excel in 2020. Right now it ranks 25th in adjusted sack rate, make of that what you will. But there’s bad for now and then there’s doomed. Last season Seattle’s pass rush felt doomed. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t going to get any better.
Believe it or not, the 2020 Seahawks actually rank first in the NFL in quarterback knockdowns. That benefits from the offense creating so many leads but this offense is going to create so. many. leads. Unlike last year, we’re not left waiting for one guy to step up while making excuses for the rest of the bunch. Mayowa is good if probably incapable of being great, Alton Robinson is capable of whatever he damn well pleases, Darrell Taylor has a ton of potential, Quem may be finally proving himself too good to stash, and this kid Brooks radically changed my mind. I said Seattle was one deep at Bruce Irvin’s position. That’s just not true.
I’m whippin’ myself into a goddamn frenzy over here like a goddamn idiot but 2020 may prove to be a transformational draft class for Seattle.
I’m gonna breathe a bit and get back on subject. The Seahawks have become a blitzing team. They rank 5th in the NFL in blitz percentage. This is Ken Norton’s defense now. Cringe away but it is. Last season they were middle of the pack. Before Norton, they were 28th, a complete reversal in two seasons. If the Seahawks are going to blitz to create pressure, they need to find snaps for Quem and Brooks simultaneously. K.J. Wright is one of my favorite Seahawks of all time but guy’s slower’n a tuatara in torpor. In the last two seasons he’s blitzed 50 times and achieved one quarterback hurry! ONE! 50!
Seattle’s secondary needs help. They’re struggling in man coverage; they’re struggling. Adams is not a coverage player. He’s great, but he’s a box safety. Even Tre Flowers seems to be coming to some sad realizations about Tre Flowers. Shaquill Griffin is one of those guys who looks amazing when he looks amazing, never looks amazing enough, is sometimes steady and way too often unnervingly crappy. I like Quandre Diggs but we’ll just have to wait and see. I do not even know what to say about Quinton Dunbar.
Some bogus rating system got people talking about the new Legion of Boom but as I remember it that same bogus rating system regularly rated Richard Sherman as sucky. The LOB is a once in a lifetime thing. Pressure can bring out the best in this current group. Blitzing Wright is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Wait, no. That’s not right. Blitzing Wright is ... it’s not whistling past a graveyard either. Blitzing Wright is using Jimmy Graham as an in-line blocker. That old expression, it’s a foolish consistency likely caused by a desire to disguise the possibility of a blitz. Here’s the thing. Brooks and Quem have both proven capable enough in a multitude of roles. Or at least Quem has, and I would guess Brooks has at the practice level. If Seattle’s going to blitz in more than a third of its snaps, not being able to blitz at all should be as disqualifying of a starter as bad run technique or iffy coverage. Wright is hardly bulletproof as a coverage defender either.
Changing this pass rush from bad for now to good may be as easy as playing the kids. That seems like a helluva Pete Carroll thing to do.