The second-year cornerback is moving from the right to the left side in 2018.
Feeling like he’s back at home again in being reunited with twin brother Shaquem, Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin is having to adjust to somewhat new surroundings on the field this spring.
Not that he’s moving far – from the right side of the Seahawks’ defense to the left.
“It’s not an issue,’’ Griffin insisted this week. “Just moving over, it’s a little different step for me, but nothing that I can’t focus on.’’
It’s the kind of thing casual fans might barely notice.
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And in a way, it’s the symbolism of the move that may mean as much as anything as left cornerback is the spot that had been held by Richard Sherman for 99 straight games until he suffered an injury last Nov. 9 at Arizona that ultimately proved to be the end of his Seahawks career.
In what became a big part of the national debate about just where Sherman stood in the ranks of NFL cornerbacks through the years, Seattle’s preference is to line up its cornerbacks on one side of the field or the other and let them stay there instead of moving them around to match up against specific receivers.
Sherman did a little bit of following receivers through the years, but most of the time stayed put on the left side (which some national observers sometimes used to critique Sherman, the idea being opponents could figure out ways to get their best receivers lined up on another cornerback if they wanted).
The left is generally regarded as the more important side since most quarterbacks are right-handed, and as such their offenses are often more right-side-centric.
Griffin took over on the right side last season, beating out veteran Jeremy Lane for the starting job, and stayed there when Sherman was hurt, with the Seahawks re-signing Byron Maxwell to step in on the left side.
But Maxwell had played on the right side when he was with the Seahawks previously, and with Sherman now in San Francisco, Seattle has decided to move Maxwell back to where he his more familiar and give the left side to Griffin, a third-round pick a in 2017 who appears set to be a foundational piece of the defense for years to come.
“We think Maxie (Byron Maxwell) has done a really nice job on the other side, and 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,’’ Carroll said.
Indeed, it’s not a total certainty that Maxwell — who signed a one-year contract in April — will win the job. He’s been absent from OTAs (Organized Team Activities) training on his own, leaving the likes of rookie Tre Flowers, projected starting nickelback Justin Coleman and veteran Neiko Thorpe to get most of the reps on the right side.
Not in question is that the left side is Griffin’s.
“Physically it was no problem,’’ Carroll said. “He had played back in forth in earlier years. His mentality about it was fine, he was wide open to it. 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, and there’s no signs of any evidence at all that it’s going to be a problem.”
One reason is that Griffin played both sides during his career at Central Florida. Another is that he is left-handed, which he thinks gives him a little bit of an advantage on that side of the field.
“It feels comfortable to me being on the left side, knowing that I’m left handed, being more dominant on that side,’’ he said. “So I guess from a mental standpoint, it feels good to be on the same side as me being left handed.”
The real proof, though, won’t come until the regular season, when quarterbacks who might have gotten in the habit of staying away from Sherman will undoubtedly look to see if Griffin will prove as stout.
“I’m hoping so,’’ Griffin said with a smile when asked if he expects teams to test him next season. “I love to compete. The more you target me, the more fun it is for me. I love it. I guess we’ll see when the first game comes around.”
If he needs some tips along the way, he can always call or text the man he is replacing.
Griffin said he “learned so much’’ from Sherman last season and stays in contact with him.
“The main thing that I did learn from him was he would just to continue to teach me to find myself and be myself,’’ he said. “I feel like the best part of last year was staying poised in different situations. Last year, my rookie year, everything was new for me. My whole thing was I wanted to stay poised in different situations and scenarios. That’s something that I took with me and he’d continue to just teach me the ropes and how to do things and how to be a professional. I think that was the most important thing that he taught me was how to be a professional.”