Seahawks cornerback competition isn’t a question mark, it’s a strength

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07: Defensive back DeShawn Shead #35 of the Seattle Seahawks breaks up a pass intended for Wide receiver Anquan Boldin #80 of the Detroit Lions in the NFC Wild Card game at CenturyLink Field on January 7, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07: Defensive back DeShawn Shead #35 of the Seattle Seahawks breaks up a pass intended for Wide receiver Anquan Boldin #80 of the Detroit Lions in the NFC Wild Card game at CenturyLink Field on January 7, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

Cornerback, cornerback, who’s got the cornerback? The Seahawks, that’s who. Lane and Griffin aren’t the only answers to this question.

For some reason, today appears to be Shaquill Griffin speculation day. Seems to be a good time to sum up some of the work we’ve already done on the Seahawks cornerback situation.

First, let’s clarify that this is a big opening at right cornerback. Literally. DeShawn Shead is the man down, and at 6’1″ and 220 pounds, his size isn’t easily replaced. The early expectation is that the Seahawks would rely on Jeremy Lane to fill the right cornerback position.

There are a couple of problems with that scenario. First, Lane was the Seahawks primary nickel cornerback last season. Seattle plays a lot of nickel, too, typically 60 percent of defensive plays. Pulling Lane from the nickel corner just opens another hole. The second issue with using Lane to replace Shead is size. Depending on your source, Lane weighs in about 26 pounds lighter than Shead. That’s a very big difference. Shaq Griffin is an inch taller and eight pounds heavier than Lane. He’s a better fit physically, while Lane is suited to handling slot receivers.

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Is Shaq Griffin the replacement for Shead?

Honestly, all signs point to yes. Pete Carroll had this to say about Griffin after day three of the rookie minicamp:

"“He looks good, he looks really good,” Carroll said. “As you look at our draft class, the guys look like they fit. They look like they fit the expectations. He has been really diligent, he is really fast. Technique-wise, it’s not hard for him to make it look right. Camp will be huge for him—none of the DBs were able to compete at the ball throughout this whole offseason, so we don’t see any of that. We have no evaluation on those guys—they can’t make a play on the ball unless it’s just thrown right to them…but when we’re looking at movement skills, guys learning, and their sense and comfort and all, he’s tuned in, he can be a big factor for us.”"

It’s worth noting that at the OTAs, Lane played the nickel slot exclusively, while Griffin took all the snaps at right corner. During the most recent minicamp, Griffin split time with special teamer Neiko Thorpe. That makes sense. The Seahawks know what Lane can do; they need to see what other options they have.

Carroll isn’t the only Seahawks coach singing Griffin’s praises

Defensive coordinator Kris Richard chimed in too, and couldn’t say enough great things about Shaq. He had this to say about his talented rookie:

"“He’s got probably one of the best corner minds that we’ve had for a young guy around here. And that’s just regards to leverage, positioning, the understanding of our coverages and where we need tem to be. He’s picked it up fairly quickly. I just know we’re going to be really, really excited to see him strap it up and get out there and actually be able to compete for the football while it’s in the air. That’s kind of going to be the next phase, but his technique has been improving day after day. And he’s got real strength. I think that’s a positive. He has strength in his hands, you can tell he’s a powerful guy. Obviously the speed is there.”"

Maybe I’m biased. After all, I did pick Griffin as one of five Seahawks primed for a great season. Don’t worry, that group will come up again very shortly.

TAMPA, FL – DECEMBER 11: Bradley McDougald
TAMPA, FL – DECEMBER 11: Bradley McDougald /

Speaking of other options

This isn’t about the cornerback position, exactly, but it does tie in to the discussion. There’s much more than an opening at the right cornerback position available. Remember that point about the Seahawks playing so much nickel coverage? There’s another player in the mix at nickel, and we’ve talked about him before as one of those five Seahawks headed for big seasons. That’s right, Bradley McDougald, the man who may well become known as “Big Nickel” in Seattle. On that possibility, let’s hear from Coach Carroll again. The possibility of a big nickel package, not the nickname.

"“There are ways for us to play a bigger nickel group, and we’re wide open to that flexibility and with Earl and with Kam,” Carroll said in March. “We played over 800 snaps of nickel last year, the most we’ve ever played by far, and there’s different opportunities in early-down situations to vary your groups, which we’ve done sometimes in the past already. There’s a lot of opportunity for us.”"

So Bradley McDougald could see a lot of snaps in a nickel package.  That’s another strength of the Seahawks newfound defensive backfield depth.

Here’s another strength we haven’t focused on until now. DeShawn Shead himself. Bad news: he isn’t expected to be ready for week one. Good news: he isn’t expected to miss the entire season, or close to it. He will be back, hopefully fairly early. Whether it’s Lane or Griffin, the experience they gain can only help Seattle in their drive to the playoffs.

Whoever it is better be ready. The Seahawks face Aaron Rodgers in week one, Marcus Mariota in week three. Be ready, and be ready quick.