During his first series on the field in an NFL preseason game, Shaquem Griffin tackled Colts running back Robert Turbin after a 2-yard gain. Three plays later, Griffin recorded his fourth tackle in as many plays, the beginning of a productive night for the Seahawks rookie, who had a game-high nine tackles, including one for a loss.
Yet as Griffin was piling up tackles, he wasn’t really aware of how many plays he had made until being told after the game.
“I didn’t notice,” said Griffin, who replaced K.J. Wright at weakside linebacker after the starters played one series. “My whole thing is, when the ball moves, I move. Coach says run to the ball, and that’s what I was doing. I didn’t know how many I tackles I had, I just kept running.”
Griffin, one of several rookies to make a promising Seahawks debut on Thursday, was only building off of what he has shown two weeks into training camp.
“He was running and hitting just like he’s been looking in practice,” Carroll said. “I’m very encouraged. He is a wonderful kid, he’s been really busting his tail to figure it out, and how to play in our scheme and all that. I can’t tell you much until I see the film, other than he was very active, just like we would hope. Look at all the young guys. The young guys did really well. The draft picks were all involved with doing good stuff tonight. They have been looking that way in practice as well, so it’s not really a surprise, it’s just really pleasing to see that it showed up game time. That’s very promising for us.”
The Seahawks selection of Griffin in the fifth-round was the feel-good story of the 2018 draft, not just because it made him teammates with his twin brother, Shaquill Griffin, but also because of what he overcame to star at UCF and be drafted. But for both Griffin and the Seahawks, the focus has been on football and not his inspirational story, which is exactly how he wants it.
“I just played football,” Griffin said when asked about the significance of his preseason debut. “Me just being here, it’s amazing and it’s a blessing, I give all thanks to God, but I’m just here to play football.”
All of that being said, Griffin has made an impression on his teammates on both sides of the ball.
“That was really cool,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said of Griffin’s nine-tackle performance. “I was actually talking to see some of the defensive players about that. To see ‘Quem out there with his brother, them on the sidelines and stuff. The reality is he’s got no (left) hand, and to think about that and how good of a football player he is is really, really cool to see. It’s really a testament to hard work, it’s a testament of anything’s possible. He’s playing in the National Football League, playing linebacker and tackling people with only one hand. And he’s not just tackling people, he’s making plays—he picked me off in practice, so I know he’s making plays. He has done that the whole time, he does it the right way, he’s professional, and he’s got a brother to look up to who has been in the league for an extra year. Just to think about that is pretty cool.”
And Griffin wasn’t the only rookie to make his presence felt on Thursday night. Third-round pick Rasheem Green recorded 1.5 sacks, including one on Andrew Luck early in the game. Fifth-rounder Tre Flowers started at right cornerback and saw significant playing time, and despite one pass interference penalty, the former safety mostly held his own despite being new to the position. First-rounder Rashaad Penny had a couple of nice moments, most notably an impressive 6-yard run that contributed to Seattle’s opening touchdown drive. Sixth-round pick Jacob Martin had half a sack and got pressure on a number of occasions. Rookie punter Michael Dickson averaged 50 yards on three punts, including a 61-yarder, and tight end Will Dissly added two catches for 19 yards.
“We saw so many good things and so much stuff from our guys,” Carroll said. “From looking at the rooks, looking at Dissly and Tre Flowers and Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin. Those guys all gave us a chance to see them. Shaquem was all over the field, making hits."
Added Wilson, “It was great to see a lot of guys make plays throughout the night, see some of the rookies. I always go back to my rookie year and just the feeling of what it was like to play, to put the Seahawks jersey on, the blue and the green, and go out there in front of our fans for the first time, that’s something that’s real.”
Flowers is still developing as he adjusts to the switch from safety to corner, but was on the field from the first snap because Byron Maxwell and Neiko Thorpe were held out of the game with injuries.
“He was out there for the entire half, playing football,” Carroll said. “I thought he did well. He had the one penalty with great coverage, he was there. I think he grabbed him when he didn’t even have to do it to make the play. We’ll be able to really teach from that. He stayed on top on the deep ball, down in the end zone. I thought a pretty good first outing.”
Green and Martin both generating pressure was one of the more encouraging developments for a defense that moved on from both its starting ends from last season.
“He has been really active,” Carroll said of Green. “He was raised well as a college kid, in terms of his technique and his rush principles. He’s come to us with a real good style, he’s got real good hands. He’s a fluid athlete, loose hips and all. It’s really an asset in pass rush. What he has learned and the savvy he has brought with him has showed up in practice, and I was proud that it showed up in the game, because you never know. It was a good first ball game for him.”
It was only one preseason game, but for Shaquem Griffin and the rest of Seattle’s rookies, it was a promising start.
“Everybody is on the same page that we all want to contribute and be the best we can be to take this team forward,” Flowers said. “They had a good class last year, and we just want to keep rebuilding and get back to Seahawks football.”
Fan photos from the Seahawks preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts at CenturyLink Field.