In June, Shaquill Griffin stood in front of a camera and microphone and made a promise.
The third-year Seahawks cornerback was unhappy with his play in 2018, saying it was "just an average year," so on that early summer afternoon following a session of organized team activities, Griffin stated in no uncertain terms that "I’ve got to be more than just good, I've got to be more than great, I've got to be elite, and I've got to be that type of guy they can count on."
Four months later and six games into the season, Griffin is backing up those words by playing cornerback at the type of elite level he called on himself to reach in 2019.
"Shaq is playing great," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He hasn't played better than he's playing now. He's on it. He's confident, aggressive, and clear. Really going for it. I think he's doing a great job."
The way Carroll sees it, Griffin is making the leap some players make between their first and second seasons a year later than that.
"Shaq has just been playing great football," Carroll said. "The jump from year one to year two, which really didn't happen, honestly, it just didn't show as much, is now totally visible. He's banking on all the two years that he's had. He's fit and strong and confident."
Griffin was outstanding again in last week's win at Cleveland, breaking up three passes—a pass down the sideline that helped Seattle's defense force a three-and-out following three straight Browns touchdowns, a batted down Hail Mary at the end of the half, and most significant, a pass breakup in the end zone that turned into a Tedric Thompson interception.
"You can see his confidence," defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He expects to shut people down. He expects to make plays. Any time you've been around really good players and watch them grow in development, he's right on pace to being one of the best. It's a matter of consistency and making the plays. Anybody can be good, but you have to make the plays. He's being more productive."
The Year 3 turnaround is in part the result of physical change for Griffin, who lost about 12 pounds in the offseason due to a changed diet—he and twin brother Shaquem hired a chef to improve their nutrition. But Griffin has also turned himself into a lockdown corner by changing the way he approaches the game. As he mentioned during the summer, the departure of Richard Sherman and the ensuing move to left cornerback left Griffin feeling like he had to rack up the interceptions as Sherman's replacement. In doing that he "could feel that I was just kind of being robotic last year," he said. This year, the focus has not been on his stats—though he does lead the team with six passes defensed—but on just having fun playing his game. He's not just making more plays, he's having more fun, which as he notes can be seen in an increase of on-field dancing, and focused not on his production but rather on team results.
"I was kind of just thinking to myself, 'What have I been doing wrong, what have I been doing differently, how can I change that?'" Griffin said. "I feel like I was being selfish in a way. I've never been that type of guy, nowhere in my life have I ever been selfish. I feel like thinking the way I was thinking last year was kind of selfish. I feel like I had to change the way I was thinking for myself. Not just helping me become a better person, but a better person, a better man. That's the type of mindset I was thinking in the offseason. I brought it into this season. Putting others before myself. That's the type of mindset I came in with.
"Right now I'm doing whatever it takes to help this team win. It's not about me, stat-wise, it's about what can I do to help this team win."
A year ago, Griffin might have come out of last week's win disappointed that he didn't get one of the three interceptions recorded by the Seahawks in their win over the Browns. This season, he was just happy with the win and with helping Thompson get his second interception in as many games. Thompson even tried to give Griffin the ball for breaking up the pass, but Griffin wasn't having it.
"I was excited for him," Griffin said. "I love that it was him."
Shaquem Griffin, the man who knows his twin as well as anyone, has definitely noticed the change that his brother successfully made this year.
"His mindset is different from last year when he was more like, 'Dang, I need to get more picks,' or, 'dang, I should have got that breakup,' or this and that," Shaquem Griffin said. "Now it's like, 'Man, we got this team win. I need to do whatever it takes to help us get a win—tipped balls, whatever it takes for me to make sure my guy doesn't catch the ball so I can help my defense out.' Now that he's doing that, when they're throwing the ball, he makes sure his guy doesn't catch the ball… When you have a mindset like that, plays are going to tend to come your way, because you're not the person who's out there trying to fight, or trying to do something out of the ordinary to make play. Now he's just doing his job and he's a good player."
The Seahawks and the Ravens will meet this Sunday at CenturyLink Field for the seventh game of the 2019 season. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.