Shaquem Griffin made headlines as a Seahawk long before he slid on his navy helmet and took the field for Seattle. Of course, all of it was merited and much-deserved, as his story of overcoming adversity is truly inspiring. Once the season started, however, he was not the Big Man on Campus anymore.
He started the opening game against the Broncos in Denver. He had three solo tackles in the losing effort but did not impress and at times looked overwhelmed. That didn't come as a huge surprise given the fact that he was a rookie, starting Week 1, in a different position than the one he starred at in college.
After that game, he was replaced in favor of Austin Calitro and did not start again on defense the entire season. He played over 200 snaps on special teams and collected 11 tackles in the process.
Now, with a whole year as an NFL player under his belt, Griffin looks to make a big jump forward towards making a difference on the Seahawks defense. The competition is still there, with K.J. Wright healthy, Calitro returning and a new crop of drafted linebackers like Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven. That doesn't scare Griffin.
However, it seems that Head Coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks are looking to put Griffin in a position to use his best skills, which is pursuing the quarterback or ball carrier instead of reading offenses, taking on blocks and dropping into coverage. During the first handful of practices at OTA's, Seattle had Griffin lining up at EDGE and getting after the quarterback, as Corbin Smith wrote about earlier this week.
This is closer to the position he played as a member of the UCF Knights defense in college, where he collected 18.5 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss in his last two seasons.
This is a big opportunity for Griffin who is still trying to get his "sea legs" in the NFL. The health of Ezekiel Ansah is still in question for the start of the season, at least for training camp and the preseason. This gives Griffin a chance to get quality snaps at EDGE leading up to the regular season.
Griffin has been doubted and second-guessed his whole life and has come out on top every time. There is no reason why this should be any different. He will take advantage of the quality EDGE snaps in practice and will impress.
Players usually make a big jump from their rookie year to their second season in the NFL. This is due to a host of things such as getting coached by NFL-caliber coaches, working out with trainers in a top-of-the-line facility, having pristine nutrition routines given by NFL trainers and just getting more experience in Seattle's defensive system.
He is now more familiar with his surroundings and his coaches, which can only benefit Griffin. Especially with the amount of injured veterans watching OTAs and likely some of training camp from the sidelines, the time is now for Griffin to establish himself as a player who deserves regular reps as one of the 11 players on the field for Seattle's defense.