Yes, I know. It’s only been one preseason game. But it’s simply impossible to ignore Shaquem Griffin’s performance in his NFL debut. The Seahawks have long been known for having a daunting defense. The kind of defense that can take a team all the way to a Super Bowl (or two). But the old adage that the NFL stands for “Not For Long” has proven true once again. The Seahawks Legion of Boom secondary is no more. Richard Sherman is now on the 49ers, and Kam Chancellor is battling significant health issues that could keep him off the field for a while. Even Earl Thomas is one of the most highly discussed players on the trading block.
This team has lost many of its strong defensive players from its championship run, but Pete Carroll is doing his thing, as he tries to rebuild the team from scratch once again. Part of this personnel reconstruction included the selection of one-handed Griffin in the fifth round of the recent NFL draft. Griffin is highly talented, but he is hindered by the fact that he only has one hand. Otherwise, it’s quite obvious that his draft stock would have been much higher than it actually was. Griffin impressed at the NFL combine, running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, setting the mark as the fastest time for a linebacker since 2003.
In addition, his overall attitude and appreciation for the game are second to none. When a person has to overcome as much as Griffin has, it makes sense that they will have a greater appreciation for their achievements. While the Hawks surely knew how talented he was when they drafted him, it’s very difficult to gauge just how effective he would be in an actual NFL game.
Griffin did not disappoint, leading the Seahawks in tackles with nine, six of them being solo tackles and one tackle for a loss. In fact, he led the game in tackles, nearly doubling that of the leading tackler on the Colts (five). But even that doesn’t paint an accurate picture of how great he was in this game. Griffin was a true difference maker for the Seahawks.
Even while Andrew Luck and the Colts’ first team offense was still on the field, Griffin entered the game and recorded four consecutive tackles for his team, showing his ability to take over at a moment’s notice. He had five tackles in his first seven plays on an NFL field. Take a moment to let that sink in. Maybe read it again if you have to. But any way you look at it, that type of domination is generally preserved for the top defensive players. Those who run to the football at all times, constantly pursuing the action and making their presence felt. Of those four tackles, three were on run plays, which he was able to stop in their tracks. The fourth was a tackle on tight end Jack Doyle, on the backend of a nine-yard reception from Luck.
Taking an even deeper look at Griffin’s tackles, you can see just how quick he is to read the plays and react to the football almost instantly. His one tackle for a loss was against former Seahawks running back Christine Michael, whom he knocked to the ground for a one-yard loss. That play actually put an end to a Colts drive to open the second half, quickly giving the ball back to Seattle’s offense. Two of his other tackles were also recorded within one yard of the line of scrimmage.
These types of plays are what defensive coordinators dream of. You can’t always count on turnovers from your defense, regardless of how good they might be. But if you have players who can get to the football before the offense even gets the play going, it’s going to lead to a lot of 3rd and long plays, which statistically favor the defense.
Even though this was just one game, it’s easy to see why the Seahawks coaches, players, and fans are all excited about Griffin’s potential. As the team tries to rebuild a dominant defense once again, they appear to have a true gem in the rookie linebacker. As he continues to develop and improve, we could be looking at a star in the making. After everything he has overcome to be where he is, he will easily overcome the adversity and pressure of playing in the NFL.