Seahawks Confident in Shaquem Griffin as Edge Rushing Threat
Looking to maximize his skill set, the Seahawks transitioned Shaquem Griffin to SAM linebacker this spring and talked him up as a potential edge rushing option throughout the offseason.
After patiently waiting for his opportunity, the pass rush-needy Seahawks finally threw Griffin into the fire in a 27-24 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 10. Though he didn’t record any stats playing 14 defensive snaps off the edge, coach Pete Carroll saw enough positives from the second-year defender to warrant more playing time moving forward.
“He’s active. The thing that he really brings is a whole level of speed and activity that we like,” Carroll told reporters on Wednesday. “We’ve been working him in practice. We just want to continue to expand that and see how that goes. We have to use him better. As we see him, we’re learning more about what we can do with him. He was a good addition I thought.”
Due to his slight 6-foot, 227-pound frame, the Seahawks know they have to be creative mixing Griffin in as a situational pass rusher against NFL offensive tackles. He’s never going to be an every down defensive end due to his lack of size, but he also possesses rare speed off the edge and thrived in a similar role for UCF at the college level.
Starring for the Golden Knights, Griffin produced 18.5 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss in his final two seasons. By the time he graduated, he had been named AAC Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-American honors.
As All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner remarked, Griffin has always shown the speed and ability to get after the quarterback on the practice field. He simply needed a chance to show what he can do in game action.
“When we watched him practice, it was amazing,” Wagner said. “His get off, his turn, the way he was getting to the quarterback. Then, after that, when you don’t get to the quarterback, the quarterback throws the ball [away]. If you guys watch the film, him coming out of his stack and trying to make a play 10 yards downfield. You notice his energy, you notice his effort, and I feel like he’s been growing and growing.”
Wagner wasn’t alone praising Griffin for the energy he brought to Seattle’s defense in Santa Clara. But after watching his college tape and seeing him develop on the practice field over the past two seasons, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. wasn’t surprised at all by his contributions.
“Just what we knew. Spark. Speed. Energy. Enthusiasm. It was a good shot in the arm for the group to have a young, fast guy to come in there and just be a guy that comes off the ball really hard.”
While some may question Griffin’s ability to excel as an NFL pass rusher at under 230 pounds, good luck finding anyone in Seattle’s locker room who shares that sentiment.
Among his most ardent supporters, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney called Griffin “the most shocking and surprising person” he’s met on the team since arriving via trade in August, referencing his incredible ability to play video games and shoot a basketball with one hand.
“He does everything. I don’t ever put it past him that he can’t do anything now. He showed me so much. When he’s over there, I don’t even worry. He’s going to take care of his own. Even with one hand, he still goes out there and does his thing. I’m a big supporter and a big fan of his since I’ve been here.”
Considering Seattle’s struggles rushing the passer for most of the 2019 season, it was only a matter of time until Griffin received his shot. The team has nothing to lose letting the speedy defender with a relentless motor pin his ears back and see if he can provide a spark chasing down opposing quarterbacks.
It’s the perfect chance for Griffin to make an impact in the present and potentially play himself into a bigger role beyond this season. Norton Jr. is looking forward to seeing what he and the rest of the Seahawks coaching staff can do with his unique skill set from here on out.
“When the opportunities arise, you have to really step up. Griff really, he’s always shown his ability. If you watch his college tape, that’s what he did mainly, was a guy coming off the edge, having a lot of spark, doing a lot of spins. Lot of juice. So, we’re excited about where he can go with this.”