Not to put pressure on him — hey, he wouldn’t care anyway — but CB Shaquill Griffin is the one guy out of the Seahawks drafts from 2014-17 who has the talent, poise and savvy to be as valuable as the draftees-turned-stars from 2010 to 2013 who carried Seattle to consecutive Super Bowls.
Whether that potential outcome is more about Griffin, or more about the Seahawks’ lousy drafts, is a good topic to fill out an evening at the bar.
But there is little to dispute the fact of his ascension after what coach Pete Carroll observed after Thursday’s conclusion of the organized-team-activities portion (no pads) of the NFL calendar.
To succeed the departed Richard Sherman, Carroll has moved Griffin, 23 next month, to the left side of the defense, or ground zero for Carroll’s priorities. And he analogized Griffin’s makeup to that of QB Russell Wilson, the quickest-adapting player of Carroll’s time in Seattle.
Praise locally can’t get much higher.
“It’s kind of like one of the things Russell has always impressed us with: How consistently he approaches everything,” Carroll said. “There’s never much fluctuation in his intensity and his focus; I see that in Shaq.
“He has had a great body of work that he put together in this offseason getting ready, so it’s a good sign. It means that last season didn’t affect him in any negative ways, didn’t distract him in any ways. That’s important to see.”
A year ago as a rookie third-rounder out of Central Florida, Griffin in the opener was the nickel back, then advanced to right corner when starter Jeremy Lane was ejected. By Oct. 8, he started his first game after an injury to Lane. By the end of October, the Seahawks were happy enough with Griffin’s progress to trade Lane.
Even when the Houston Texans returned Lane as damaged goods, Griffin was given the permanent job, and Lane had worn out his welcome. So too, did Sherman, who was lost to an Achilles-tendon injury in week nine and released in March.
By June, Griffin has the task of shutting down the side that usually has the top receiver, something Sherman did as well as anyone in the NFL after he started 10 games in his rookie year (2011).
No one is ready to suggest Griffin is the new Sherman. But he has to come close because denial of the deep pass is Carroll’s prime directive. That’s also why the Seahawks can ill-afford to lose Sherman and FS Earl Thomas in the same off-season, and why much depends on Griffin’s quick adoption of the left side.
“Not an issue,” Griffin said brightly. “Just moving over. It’s a little different step for me, but nothing that I can’t focus on. But I’m loving the left side. I’m honored to be on that side now.”
Carroll said he detected no sign of the football bends from a too-fast rise.
“He was wide open to it,” he said. “That’s most of it. If a guy feels uncomfortable and he’s telling you he’s feeling uncomfortable, then he is. He never balked at it at all. There’s no evidence at all that it’s going to be a problem.
“Remember, we didn’t have a lot of problems with him last year. There was not an inconsistency to him. There was not the rookie wall. There was none of that. He just kept cruising all the way through. He just looks like he’s a veteran.”
Some of that cool came from a year’s tutelage under Sherman.
“The most important thing that he taught me was how to be a professional,” he said. “That’s something that I took with me. I feel like the best part of last year was staying poised in different situations.”
With Sherman, DEs Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril gone, SS Kam Chancellor likely so and DT Malik McDowell missing in action, the Seahawks’ need for a young defender to step up and look like a veteran is extreme.
The other CB job falls for now to Byron Maxwell, who had seven starts and 44 percent of the snaps a year ago, but is 30 and skipped the voluntary OTAs after returning from free agency on a one-year deal for $1.8 million. He’ll feel pressure from younger corners.
“We think Maxie has done a really nice job on the other side,” Carroll said. “We thought if we’re going to balance it out and open it up, let’s open it up on the right side and see what happens.”
Griffin has had to make another adjustment — the return of his roommate, brother Shaquem, the feel-good story of the draft when the Seahawks took the one-handed linebacker in the fifth round.
“He’s definitely taking up a lot of space,” Shaquill said, laughing. “I’m glad to have my roommate back. He moved right in as soon as he got here. Now I don’t have to worry about being by myself anymore in the house.
“The first year, being alone here, away from the East Coast, away from the family, it was different for me. But I adapted to it. Being with him 24/7 growing up, that’s the part that I missed.”
The guy the Seahawks and their fans are going to miss this season is Sherman. If Griffin adapts as fast as Wilson did in his second year, helping lead Seattle to a Super Bowl, heaving sobs will dwindle to sniffles.