Shaquem Griffin Faces Pivotal Third Season with Seahawks
The 2018 draft was full of warm, fuzzy stories for NFL prospects hoping to be selected. None were warmer, nor fuzzier, than that of UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin.
The twin brother of Seahawks Pro Bowl cornerback Shaquill Griffin, his story is well documented by now. Due to complications from ambiotic band syndrome in his left hand as a young child, he had it amputated. He adapted quickly and played multiple sports at a high level despite having just one hand, including racking up 18.5 sacks his last two seasons with the UCF Knights.
Seattle selected him in the fifth round to much fanfare, reuniting him with his twin brother in the Pacific Northwest.
Now heading into his third season with the Seahawks, the honeymoon is long over and Griffin will have to fight to not only earn a prominent role on the defense moving forward, but maybe even for a roster spot at all.
Griffin, of course, is up to the challenge, as he always has been throughout his life. Count him out at your own peril.
Entering his third year, Griffin is running out of time to carve out a role on Ken Norton Jr.'s defense. He started his very first game as a rookie in 2018 against the Denver Broncos. His head was spinning after that game and the coaches thought it best to bring him on slowly. He hasn't played more than 26 defensive snaps in a game since.
As last season wore on, the coaches tried to form a new role for Griffin as a speed rusher off the edge, where he excelled during his UCF days.
The pinnacle moment of his 2019 campaign came just minutes before it ended, as he sacked former MVP Aaron Rodgers late in the fourth quarter with Seattle trying to mount a comeback in the Divisional Round against Green Bay.
If a role for Griffin is to be found moving forward, it will likely look a lot like it did in that playoff game at Lambeau Field. He took just five snaps on defense for Seattle but he made them count that day.
Griffin will certainly have some stiff competition trying to earn significant snaps as an edge rusher. With the 2020 draft class rolling in with the likes of Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson on the edge as well as Jordyn Brooks at linebacker, he will need to prove doubters wrong once more to remain on the roster.
As he prepares for his third season, Griffin still has two advantages on his side against the eager young players now on the roster: experience and speed.
Griffin has appeared in all possible games over his first two seasons, albeit mostly on special teams. Plus, only DK Metcalf posted a faster 40-yard dash time at the combine than Griffin among Seattle's draftees of the last three seasons.
That speed could be seen on display in limited action last year, and while he only managed a single sack, he did consistently generate pressure on quarterbacks when given the opportunity to play. He'll have to show he can build off that success to hang around for another season.
Given his speed and unbreakable determination, do not count Griffin out just yet for a prominent role in 2020. However, with just a year left on his rookie deal after this year, it could be "make or break" time, especially with all of the new additions brought in to help the pass rush in recent months.