It isn’t easy to stand out on a defense filled with Pro Bowlers. You have to make a difference in a positive way.
Three young players on the Seattle Seahawks‘ defense – cornerback Shaquill Griffin, defensive end Frank Clark, and defensive tackle Jarran Reed — have done so this season.
All three are rising stars at spots where the Seahawks need their help. Here’s a closer look at each of them:
Shaquill Griffin, CB
The third-round pick out of Central Florida caught everyone’s attention from the start of training camp. Quickness and his coverage skills stood out as major assets for the rookie corner.
Griffin earned a chance to play as the third cornerback in the slot because both starting spots outside were locked down by Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane.
That changed quickly when Lane was ejected early in the first game. Griffin was thrown in the mix against the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers.
Guess who got picked on? Of course a veteran quarterback like Rodgers tested a rookie. Griffin made some mistakes, but played well overall on a day when Rodgers scored just 17 points, one of them on a very short drive set up by a Seattle turnover.
If he could hold his own against a future Hall of Famer like Rodgers out of the gate, Griffin could grow into a quality starter.
That role returned when Lane suffered a groin injury in the Indianapolis game on Oct. 1. Griffin played well again in his start against the Los Angeles Rams last weekend.
Griffin (6-foot, 200 pounds) ranks fourth on the team in tackles with 26, which is the second-highest tackle total of all 2017 rookies. It’s also eight more than Sherman. Quarterbacks shy away from Sherman, especially with a rookie on the other side of the field. They’ve had limited success against Griffin, who is tied for the team lead with three passes defensed.
“He’s really played great football,’’ Seahawk coach Pete Carroll said of Griffin. “And he’s going to make some picks [interceptions] in the second half of the season. He’s going to continue to get better.”
Frank Clark, DE
The third-year player from Michigan is a one-man wrecking ball who treats every snap like the game is on the line. Clark had 10 sacks last year as a backup. Now he has been thrust into a starting role that could exist for the rest of the season.
Veteran defensive end Cliff Avril has a neck injury that leaves his status uncertain, and could be career-ending. Those are big shoes to fill for Clark, but he’s capable of being the same disruptive force Avril has been.
Clark has 2½ sacks, while three of his 11 tackles have been for losses. He also had a forced fumble against the Rams when he stripped the ball from quarterback Jared Goff.
“Frank also was tearing it up on the running game, especially on the perimeter,’’ Carroll said. “He does things that kind of blow you away. He’s not the biggest guy at 260 pounds, but his strength is remarkable.”
Jarran Reed, DT
This pick may surprise some people, but Reed (6-3, 305) does so many things that go unnoticed by clogging up the middle of the line of scrimmage. His play inside enables linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright to make key stops.
Reed, a second-round draft pick out of Alabama in 2016, has been a forgotten man up front since the acquisition of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson at the start of the season. Richardson has been everything the Seahawks hoped he would be.
Having Reed next to him helped. They’ve made each other better. Reed has 12 tackles with one for a loss and one pass defensed. Things that don’t show up in the box score make him a special player.
For example, the interception last weekend by safety Earl Thomas would not have happened without Reed’s help. He literally pushed guard Rodger Saffold (6-5, 325) backwards into Goff as Goff was about to make the throw. It caused Goff to toss a dead quail over the middle that was an easy pick for Thomas.
Reed does the dirty work that makes a difference inside.
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