RENTON — Shaquill Griffin didn’t like what he saw when he reviewed his first season as the Seahawks’ No. 1 cornerback, and he didn’t hold back in his self evaluation.
This offseason, Griffin talked openly about some of his struggles from 2018, giving himself an overall “D” grade for his play.
“I’ve got to be that guy. I’ve got to be more than just good. I’ve got to be more than just great. I’ve got to be elite, and I’ve got to be that type of guy they can count on,” he said this summer.
Four games into his second season as Richard Sherman’s successor at left corner — and in his third season overall — Griffin is closer to approaching that elite status he has demanded of himself.
And just in time too.
The Los Angeles Rams bring one of the NFL’s most potent passing offenses to CenturyLink Field for Thursday’s NFC West matchup, a prime-time opportunity for Griffin and Tre Flowers to show how far they’ve come in their second season together as the Seahawks’ corners.
“I put them up there with anybody, in my opinion,” Flowers said. “Robert Woods is a real solid receiver. Cooper Kupp, he gets open and makes plays. Brandin Cooks gets a thousand yards everywhere he goes. I think they’re a real good bunch.”
Griffin has been good too in the Seahawks’ 3-1 start.
Pro Football Focus ranks Griffin as one of the NFL’s 10 best cornerbacks through four games, giving him a coverage grade of 82.9.
In 2018, PFF gave Griffin an overall grade of 50.7 — ranking him 111th out of 112 qualified cornerbacks. (Yikes.)
So, yeah, a dramatic turnaround so far.
“Am I happy?” Griffin said Tuesday, repeating a question asked of him inside the Seahawks locker room. “I’m getting to that point. I’m not close to where I want to be at. Not at all. Not even close yet. But it’s a good start.”
Griffin and his brother, Shaquem, committed to a new nutrition program this offseason, and Shaquill lost 12-15 pounds as a result. Playing at 198 pounds now, he said he feels better — and faster — and plans to maintain this weight.
He remains a harsh critic of his own play.
“If I had to give myself a grade right now, I’d give myself a C-plus. Almost a B,” he volunteered. “I’m climbing. I’m working my way up. I’m not close to where I want to be yet, but it’s a work in progress.”
Griffin has allowed just seven receptions through four games, per PFF, which credits him with a forced incompletion rate of 23.1% — up from 8.8% last season.
“He looks really active; he’s made consistent plays,” coach Pete Carroll said. “You’ve seen him knock balls down kind of in consistent fashion almost week in and week out. Doing a good job on top, on the deep balls. He’s playing great football, I think.”
The flip side is opponents continue to target Flowers. That seems to be an indication of the growing respect for Griffin, but also a sign of Flowers’ inexperience. Remember, this is Flowers’ second year in the NFL — and second year at cornerback, after playing safety at Oklahoma State.
Flowers has allowed 18 receptions through four games and he has an overall grade of 52.8 from PFF. Carroll went out of his way to defend his cornerbacks after Cincinnati’s big passing day in the season opener, noting the Seahawks’ coverage plan dictated some of the breakdowns.
“With the defense we’re playing this year — with a lot of ‘base’ on the field — it looks like I’m getting picked on a lot, I would say,” Flowers said this week. “But we live with certain throws … and you just wait for the ball to come back to you.”
Flowers says he’s trying to follow Griffin’s example.
“I’ve had a couple good tackles; I’ve had a couple PI calls; a couple holding calls,” he said. “But I haven’t played up to my standard. I’ve got to match him. He’s our leader right now. He’s playing real good.”
Griffin is one of Flowers’ biggest proponents.
“He’s getting a better feel for it, and you can see it,” Griffin said. “He’s starting to feel more comfortable in that position, and the more he plays the better he’s going to be. I’m excited for him. He’s only going to get better.”