They’re playing him on the edge as a strong-side linebacker, the same role he had at Central Florida, and the huge smile on his face told you everything you need to know about what he thinks of the switch.
“It’s exactly the same thing,” Griffin said of his current role compared to what he did in college. “It’s no change. I’m rushing, I’m dropping, I’m going man-to-man in coverage, I’m setting the edge. I had so much time, and I remember so much from college on how I need to set the edge and what’s best for me and how I need to do it, it just snapped right back as soon as they put me there and I was like, ‘I’m having so much fun again.’ It’s just such a big difference because I feel so comfortable there.”
The Seahawks used Griffin as a weak-side linebacker last season after choosing him in the fifth round, which made him the first one-handed player to be drafted in the NFL’s modern era. They initially felt that Griffin and his 4.38-second speed over 40 yards would be best suited for the weak side, the position in coach Pete Carroll’s 4-3 defense that plays behind the line of scrimmage and is thus more often in space. But he struggled while making a spot start for K.J. Wright in the opener and barely played on defense the remainder of the season.
The Seahawks ask their strong-side linebackers to play on the ball and set the edge. Barkevious Mingo started there last season, but Carroll revealed after the Seahawks’ final minicamp practice Thursday that the plan is for Mingo to be used as more of as an edge rusher in 2019. That’s a need area for the Seahawks with Frank Clark gone and his replacement, Ezekiel Ansah, coming off shoulder surgery that is expected to sideline him past the start of training camp and maybe into the regular season.
That will leave some open snaps at strong-side linebacker. Griffin has been working there in base defense and at the weak-side spot in nickel packages. Carroll has said this could be the best group of linebackers he’s had in Seattle, which means the battle for roster spots behind All-Pro Bobby Wagner, Wright, Mychal Kendricks and third-round pick Cody Barton will be competitive. Seattle also drafted Ben Burr-Kirven in the fifth round.
“It’s been really a good deal for him,” Carroll said of Griffin’s switch. “We see how much background he has on the edge. He’s played safety and outside linebacker for the most part in his career. He’s just more comfortable out there. That doesn’t mean that he can’t play behind the line of scrimmage. He’s gained a lot there, but you can see him on the edge, in space and coming off the edge and pressures and stuff like that, that it’s a good spot for him. So he’s had a very, very good offseason with us.”
The biggest adjustment Griffin said he faced in moving to the weak side last season was staying patient and not reflexively flying to the ball, which would cause him to abandon his run gap. He described the reads as easier at the strong-side position.
“The line blocks down, you’re taking off,” he said. “The line blocks to you, you’re setting the edge. That’s two things. When it comes to being behind the ball, you’ve got pullers, you’ve got to stunt the line one way or you’ve got to make sure you adjust the line before the play starts if they motion over. There’s just so much more into it that now if you put me on the edge, it’s like boom, let’s play ball.”
Griffin suffered from a congenital birth defect called amniotic band syndrome and had his left hand amputated at age 4. His backstory and the fact he was being reunited with his twin brother, Shaquill, Seattle’s starting left cornerback, made him the darling of last year’s draft. With that came so much attention that the Griffin family fielded interview requests from China and Italy.
This offseason was “definitely” easier with less hoopla, he said.
“Don’t have to worry about all the extra, everybody trying to hype your head up and get you big-headed and stuff like that and tell you what you can and cannot do,” he said. “More so for me it was like, take time for yourself, find out who you are and find out what you want to do, find out your goals and what you want to get out of the next season and just go after it. Working out every single day, making sure I was getting my body right, making sure I was eating right and let’s focus on my stuff instead of letting everyone focus on me.”
The twins hired a personal chef this offseason at the suggestion of Shaquill, who dropped 12 pounds. Shaquem said he’s moving around better after cutting out fried foods, fast food and pork.
And they’ve been working on sack dances in the event Shaquem records one.
“We’re gonna have a few,” Shaquem said. “We’re gonna have a whole little dance routine. Don’t worry about that.”