With around 3,000 miles separating their two respective cities and playing in separate conferences, the Seahawks and Jaguars typically only play each other every four years. They last met in the Seattle way back in 2013.
For that reason alone, considering they play three times in a decade at the most, the two teams wouldn't be considered rivals. Under normal circumstances, at least by NFL standards, they're as far from familiar opponents as you will find in the league.
However, as the 1-5 Jaguars prepare to embark on a long road trip to the Pacific Northwest to play at Lumen Field on Sunday, they might as well be re-named the Jacksonville Seahawks. After a busy offseason overhauling the entire organization under a new coach in Urban Meyer and new general manager in Trent Baalke, the team has a plethora of former Seattle alumni on the roster and the coaching staff.
Headlining the crop of players changing their navy Seahawks threads for teal Jaguars threads, long-time starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin signed a lucrative three-year, $40 million contract back in March to return to his home state. Through six games, the ex-UCF standout has earned his money, allowing 19 receptions on 29 targets for 225 yards, no touchdowns, and an 89.0 passer rating. He's also produced four pass breakups and 27 tackles.
Seeing his former pupil thrive in Jacksonville, coach Pete Carroll sees Griffin being utilized much the same as he was in Seattle's scheme, with the one notable difference being that he's moved around some to match up with top receivers.
“He’s matching up with guys at times, but he’s basically playing the same style of technical football," Carroll said. "He is on the line of scrimmage, pressing, and doing all of that. It looks like he’s off to a good start.”
Drafted in the third round back in 2017, Griffin became a starter midway through his rookie season and developed into a Pro Bowl cornerback by his third season in Seattle. Starting 53 games in four seasons with the franchise, he amassed 249 tackles, 48 pass breakups, six interceptions, and nine tackles for loss.
Despite being in the mix down to the final hour, the Seahawks weren't able to match the Jaguars offer for Griffin, who at only 26 years of age stood out as one of the most coveted cornerbacks on the market. Looking back, Carroll wishes they could have found a way to keep him, but it simply wasn't in the cards given other needs on the roster and limited salary cap space.
“We would have loved to have been able to do that, but we weren’t able to get it done," Carroll reflected. "He got a tremendous opportunity and had to go. We love Shaq and would have liked to have had him back, but it just didn’t fit.”
Away from Griffin, the Jaguars also signed veteran running back Carlos Hyde to serve as a backup behind starter James Robinson. In his lone season with the Seahawks, he rushed for 356 yards and four touchdowns while playing in 10 games. The team also added former Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister prior to the regular season after he was waived by the Bills and has caught four passes for 21 yards and a touchdown in four games.
Where the Seattle to Jacksonville connection can truly be seen is on Meyer's staff, however. Two of Carroll's previous offensive coordinators with the Seahawks, Darrell Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer, were hired as the Jaguars offensive coordinator and passing game coordinator respectively during the offseason and tasked with developing No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence.
In addition, Sanjay Lal, who was a senior offensive assistant for Seattle in 2020, departed with Schottenheimer to become Jacksonville's receiver coach. With all three of those coaches on Meyer's staff armed with immense knowledge of the Seahawks' defensive scheme, Carroll expects them to put together "a heck of a game plan," which presents a unique challenge against an out of conference foe.
“Those guys know the league and from what I can tell in the breakdowns that I have been going through and evaluating that they have chosen really good stuff to build their offense and they are using their personnel well, in particular, the quarterback," Carroll said of the trio of former Seattle coaches. "Those guys have great backgrounds, and they know what they are doing."
Back in June, with long-time Seahawks special teams coordinator Brian Schneider stepping away, the Jaguars also added Nick Sorenson as his replacement. Previously playing 11 years in the NFL, he had been with the organization working under Schneider since 2013 and most recently served as a secondary and nickel specialist coach in Seattle.
In the first seven weeks of the season, Carroll has already seen Sorenson's arrival having a positive impact in Jacksonville, saying the team has "really coming" along in the third phase of the game under his leadership.
Even the Seahawks have a couple of former Jaguars on their practice squad in quarterback Jake Luton and veteran receiver Phillip Dorsett, who appeared in one game earlier this year with the team before being waived. One of them could realistically be elevated to the 53-man roster before this game, with Luton being most likely with Russell Wilson still out injured.
With so many familiar faces set to square off on Sunday, Bevell, Schottenheimer, Griffin, and others who changed teams this spring will undoubtedly exchange pleasantries with Carroll and others during warmups. It will truly be a unique reunion with so many players and coaches having been on the other sideline only one year earlier.
But with both the Seahawks and Jaguars already having five losses apiece and battling to salvage their respective seasons, once it's time for kickoff, it will be all business between the lines and a bevy of ex-Seahawks will be eager to send their former team to a fourth straight defeat.