Shaquill Griffin had a specific goal in mind to accomplish in his second season with the Seahawks.
The cornerback wanted to get his hands on more footballs that actually remained in his grasp. Griffin, a third-round pick out of Central Florida, had 15 passes defended as a rookie but just one interception. Griffin already has two interceptions this season, both coming in Monday's loss at Chicago. And both the product of increased confidence.
One came on a leaping, turning play on the ball that defined his goals to improve. Griffin said he's much further along this season than he was last year in the art of tracking the ball.
"I’m glad I’m finally getting the ball in my hand," he said. "I feel like that’s the main thing I wanted to work on. That’s just a huge confidence booster for me to finally start getting the ball in my hands early in the season. That’s something I’m going to continue to work on."
Griffin said the trick is being more confident in getting his head turned around to find the ball, which he did while making a leaping interception at Chicago on a sideline pass intended for wide receiver Allen Robinson.
"Last year I felt like I was just playing it safe when I know I can punch the ball out," Griffin said. "I know I’m good at tracking the ball and just make sure he doesn’t catch it. I said, now that I know I’m finally doing good with that, let’s try and get the ball in my hands, I just try to turn my head around."
Griffin had the benefit last year of playing opposite former Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, now with San Francisco. Sherman, according to Griffin, shared with him some valuable advice.
"He was telling me, when you’re running, you got to look up straight in the air because that’s where the ball is at," Griffin said. "The ball is not coming straight to you. So, it was the little stuff that he was teaching me, but he also wants me to feel comfortable doing it."
Even though Sherman is now with the 49ers, Griffin said his mentor and "brother" remains only a phone call or text message away.
"That’s the type of person Richard Sherman is," Griffin said. "He’s always willing to help and that’s something that you as a rookie last year, somebody you can always ask for and love to have from a person like Richard. So, to this day I still would ask questions or anything that I need to know, or I want to know, he’s always willing to help. So that’s awesome from him.”
As it turned out, Shaquill this season moved from right corner to Sherman's former left corner spot.
"It meant a lot actually, because I felt like that means they have a sense of trust in me to take that role," Shaquill said. "Especially being that’s Richard Sherman’s spot and everything that he’s done here in this organization. That means they had a sense of trust in me to take over that role and kind of pick up where he left off from.”
Filling the spot of a former member of the Legion of Boom is different than trying to live up to that legacy.
"I feel like we’re not trying to live up to the standard. We’re just trying to find our own identity and continue to use what the guys have put down before us," Shaquill said.
Despite being a starter, Shaquill is the lesser-known Griffin brother. His twin brother, Seattle linebacker Shaquem Griffin, has made headlines for playing college and NFL football without having a left hand. Shaquem started the season opener in place of the injured K.J. Wright and had a rough day.
The twins review game film in a theater room in the apartment share. Shaquill said the room is equipped with lounge chairs for comfort.
Is there a small refrigerator, as well?
"No," Shaquill said. "But that's a good idea."
Much of the film sessions involve Shaquill helping Shaquem learn the defense and examine his mistakes. The sessions also include Shaquem offering Shaquill some pointers. During games, they make a point of finding each other on the sideline to go over aspects of the game. At Chicago, Shaquem made sure his brother remained properly hydrated during the humid Chicago evening.
"He was like, ‘Are you good, you need some water? So, it’s good to have him out there checking on m," Shaquill said. "Every series is just a couple words here and there. People don’t understand, just those few words help someone, any player, just calm down just a little bit more."
Seattle is more than pleased with how well Griffin has performed at the left cornerback spot. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. pointed to Griffin's understanding of the position.
“You can see he’s a guy that really understands the corner play," Norton said. "He knows how to go up and get the ball, he’s really fast, he understands his technique. There’s no limit for how good he can be. It’s just a matter of practicing and continuing to learn, continue to improve and then the good stuff starts to come.”
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said he's seen a dramatic increase in Griffin's confidence.
"He had it last year, but it’s definitely grown because you have all offseason, all summer, to kind of sit there and, and really dissect what you did good last year, what you did bad, be able to be in a system for a long time," Wagner said. "You see his confidence, he’s kind of like, he wants somebody to try him. When they tried him, he got two picks.”
For Carroll, Griffin's consistency has been great to see.
"He’s just played the same every time he goes out," Griffin said. "He’s got a consistency about him and he’s really gifted because he’s so fast and he’s athletic and all the rest and he’s tough, that he’s got a consistency to him that he could be a really good player here in. You got to put time together to make that work, but I’m really hopeful for it.”
On Sunday against Dallas, the Griffin brothers will play their first regular season home game at CenturyLink. Shaquill has experienced the noise levels fans create. Shaquem has not.
"It’s extremely loud, but it’s exciting," Shaquill said. "I can’t wait for (Shaquem) to get the full experience. He was telling me, ‘oh, I ain’t know it going to be this loud’, and this was preseason. It’s a totally huge difference between the preseason game and a regular season game at home. So, I’m curious to see his reaction. I think the first thing I’m going to do if he’s on kick off is look in his face and see how he looks. I just want to catch the reaction of his first time on the field at a regular season game at home.