RENTON Yes, Shaquill Griffin learned plenty while playing virtually all of his first NFL game opposite three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman.
"First off, that the ball is coming to me most of the time," Griffin said after his debut as the Seahawks’ new cornerback.
The rookie flashed a big, knowing grin.
Welcome to life opposite Sherman in the Seahawks’ secondary.
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Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers sure did target Griffin early, middle and late last weekend in Seattle’s 17-9 loss. It was just about the most challenging career opener a guy can have in the NFL.
"It was great to go against one of the great quarterbacks," Griffin said, "because that’s a great place to start. To learn from going against him, especially from going against one of his favorite targets, it was perfect. That’s something I can build off of for the rest of the season."
Griffin ran all over Lambeau Field mostly stride for stride with Jordy Nelson, Rodgers’ main man. He also ran with Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and seemingly every Packers receiver back to James Lofton on Sunday.
Rodgers kept sending his guys at Griffin short, short, then short again. The third-round pick from Central Florida allowed about a half-dozen catches of 6 and 8 yards. He believes his longest one allowed was 13 yards.
But four times Rodgers tried to beat Griffin deep. Four times the kid denied the two-time NFL MVP. That included on consecutive plays in the first half, and against Nelson in the red zone in the second half.
With the Seahawks trailing 14-6 early in the fourth quarter Griffin made an open-field tackle of elusive Packer Ty Montgomery at the Seattle 44. It appeared as if it may have saved a touchdown.
One of the league’s most esteemed authorities on pass coverage loved Griffin’s debut, and has no reason to doubt the rookie will be the same Sunday in the Seahawks’ home opener against San Francisco (0-1).
"He balled out," Seahawks three-time All-Pro safety Earl Thomas said of Griffin’s first game.
After one game, Griffin already knows the key to longevity in being a Seahawks cornerback in coach Pete Carroll’s system.
"The main thing was, I was going to have help underneath," Griffin said. "So, protect the deep ball.
"I feel like they were trying to take advantage of me, then trying to go deep and score. The thing of it was, the short routes, I’d rather have that than them going deep on me.
"The main thing is not trying to let them score."
That is, after all, the name of the game.
Rapidly learning the Seahawks’ unique step-kick technique of turning and running ahead of receivers off the line, Griffin’s been denying the deep pass consistently since the first preseason game last month.
More than anything else to their coverage men, the Seahawks preach staying over the top and not getting beaten deep. That starts with Carroll, a former college defensive back and NFL secondary coach, through quality-control assistants, position coaches and defensive coordinator Kris Richard, the former Seahawks DBs coach.
Without question, Griffin played 77 of 82 snaps Sunday and has seized the right-cornerback job when the Seahawks are in nickel defense with Jeremy Lane inside because he has not in his first two NFL months allowed himself to get beaten on long passes.
In the second preseason game last month, Minnesota also tried to set up Griffin with repeated short passes at him on consecutive plays early in the game. Then quarterback Sam Bradford went long on Griffin, expecting him to overplay for another short pass. Griffin denied three shots long by Bradford and the Vikings.
Last weekend he did the same thing when the games got real.
"He did a great job," Carroll said. "He honestly played just like he has been playing. He had playing very consistent throughout the preseason and took it right to game time, which is really a marvelous thing to see for the coaches.
"He was able to maintain his mentality and his focus and stay disciplined and aggressive and he did all of that and he got challenged, too. He had many opportunities there, so really pleased with his progress."
Griffin is far beyond his 22 years. Seahawks coaches rave about his poise. Carroll kept checking in with the rookie throughout his debut – on national television, in one of football’s most hallowed venues, against one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks. And the coach kept walking away impressed on how calm and even-keeled Griffin remained while Rodgers was trying every which was to unnerve him.
Griffin takes detailed notes from his game-week film study on the opposing wide receivers. He writes down – not on a tablet, laptop or phone but old-school, pen to paper – tendencies he notices on receivers’ breaks of the line. Their hand-fighting tricks. How often they like their sideline passes on the back shoulder.
It’s a black book that most veterans such as Sherman, seven years older, have. Griffin already has one, one game into his NFL career.
Heck, he even was studying the moves of Los Angeles Chargers receivers on Seattle’s team flight last month –to the first preseason game.
Griffin was going to play a lot in the opener; Seattle’s game plan against Rodgers always involves playing nickel defense the majority of the time. But Lane got ejected after an altercation with Adams on the game’s eighth play. That meant Griffin got every snap the rest of the game, in base defense and when newly acquired Justin Coleman entered as Lane’s replacement at nickel.
Griffin’s reaction to Lane getting thrown out so early in the game, knowing it was all on him and that Rodgers was coming his way all day?
"It was no reaction," Griffin said. "I feel like I was always prepared and that I was always ready for the situation. Once that chance came, I just took full advantage of it.
"I wanted them to understand they can fully count on me."