Shaquem Griffin’s accelerated preparation to start his first NFL game in the Seahawks’ opener—and then the time he spent after it—are going like everything else this summer for the remarkable rookie.
The fifth-round draft choice started Thursday night’s preseason finale at weakside linebacker three days after Pro Bowl veteran K.J. Wright had arthroscopic knee surgery. Griffin, the first one-handed player drafted into the modern NFL, had a game-high three solo tackles and four total in the first quarter, including one on Oakland running back Chris Warren in the open field short of the line to gain to end a drive.
Griffin had seven stops in the first half of the Seahawks’ 30-19 loss to the Raiders at mostly indifferent CenturyLink Field.
Then about 30 minutes after the game, Griffin came back out the tunnel from the Seahawks’ locker room and beamed at the sight of dozens of children from across the Pacific Northwest visiting him specifically as part of NubAbility Athletics Foundation, a non-profit organization for different-limbed athletes like himself. The kids were as over the moon at meeting their hero as he was at meeting them and their parents.
With his mother and his twin brother Shaquill, who started with him Thursday at cornerback for Seattle, Shaquem Griffin signed shirts, caps, arms. And he touched hearts.
It’s truly been incredible. And his first NFL season hasn’t even started yet.
“It might seem crazy. But it’s not crazy,” Griffin said, with a smile, about starting his first NFL game in that opener in Denver that’s 10 days away. “I’ve just been waiting for my moment.
“For me, it’s all a learning process right now. I’m more than excited to get everything started.”
For what it’s worth (nothing, especially compared to what Griffin is doing): This is the first time in their 43 years the Seahawks finished the preseason winless.
“Well, our focus goes immediately to what’s coming up in the next couple days here and get the roster right,” coach Pete Carroll said ahead of Saturday’s 1 p.m. deadline to cut the 90-man preseason roster to 53 players for the start of the regular season.
“We’ve got some decisions to make.”
But not on Griffin.
Wright, watching in street clothes, posted his love for Griffin’s play and that of reserve middle linebacker Austin Calitro on his Twitter account during the game:
We are about to cut you. But go out there and fill in for our franchise quarterback. Be a co-captain, even.
That was the weird night Austin Davis had for Seattle.
The journeyman backup started the preseason finale at quarterback for resting, preserving Russell Wilson—hours after the Seahawks made official their trade from the day before for backup quarterback Brett Hundley from Green Bay. Davis converted his first two third downs with completions, then had a scramble and improvisational touchdown pass to Jaron Brown wiped out by a penalty on fill-in left tackle Isaiah Battle.
Davis got that TD back early in the second quarter, with more electricity.
He fired a strike down the left sideline to former Washington Huskies wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow, who sprinted past Oakland cornerback Raysean Pringle, caught the pass and finished the 81-yard touchdown. That cut Oakland’s lead to 10-6.
One of the first teammates to great Stringfellow in the back of the end zone: Wilson. The quarterback ran 50-plus yards off the sidelines to celebrate with the young receiver.
Davis, a former starter for the Browns and Rams who was Wilson’s backup last season, completed 13 of 20 passes for 194 yards and that touchdown.
“I’m happy for Austin. He came through,” Carroll said, knowing it was a weird deal for the veteran to be playing for Seattle—but really for everybody else in the NFL.
Rookie seventh-round pick Alex McGough replaced Davis at quarterback for the start of the second half. He stepped up nicely in a formed pocket and threw for 25 yards to Malik Turner out to midfield 2 minutes into the third quarter.
McGough then made a wowing throw on the run 50-plus yards in the air to Turner near the goal line off a scramble. The officials ruled a touchdown, but after a replay review officials determined Turner’s second foot came down on the sideline boundary to negate the completion.
McGough is likely to be waived, go unclaimed by the rest of the league, then onto the Seahawks’ practice squad this weekend as their third quarterback.
Hundley will replace Davis, 29, as Wilson’s primary backup quarterback when the Seahawks announce their final preseason cuts on Saturday. That’s because Seattle gave up a sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft for the 25-year-old Hundley.
Stringfellow, who transferred from UW to Mississippi, is a prime candidate for Seattle’s practice squad. That is, if his touchdown Thursday doesn’t entice another NFL to claim him off waivers he seems destined to be on after Saturday’s final preseason roster cuts.
Mike Davis, trying to win one of the last spots for running backs on the roster, scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to end a 2-minute drill. That was after wide receiver David Moore, seemingly on the team already, drew a dubious pass-interference penalty on a throw into the back of Oakland cornerback Shareece Wright.
Mike Davis had 45 yards on nine carries in the opening half. His chances to make the roster could depend on whether the Seahawks decide to carry a fullback to begin the season, or go without one and have tight end Nick Vannett double at that duty when offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wants to go to his I formation for power runs.
Rookie first-round pick Rashaad Penny was in uniform for warmups but did not play. The running back had surgery to repair his broken finger two weeks ago. Penny remains on track to return in time for the opening game in Denver.
Nickel defensive back Justin Coleman, one of the only regulars along with the Griffin twins who started Thursday, failed to bring Raiders receiver Keon Hatcher to the ground following a catch late in the first quarter. Hatcher spun off Coleman’s legs at the ground, got up and ran the rest of the way for a 45-yard touchdown play to put Seattle’s reserves behind Oakland 7-0 entering the second quarter.
Another missed tackle in the secondary, this one by second-year safety Delano Hill for allowing a receiver to bounce off his shoulder hit following a catch, caused a Raiders 45-yard touchdown play. That put Seattle down 23-13.
Hill, a third-round pick last year, has failed to take advantage of multiple chances to impress at strong safety this preseason.
Another one-time candidate to start at strong safety, ex-Rams starter Maurice Alexander, increased his chances of making the team. Alexander moved to weakside linebacker behind Griffin and played much of the second half there. The more you can do...
“It was good,” Alexander said. “I had to learn it fast...in a couple days. I was just out there having fun.”
Safety Mike Tyson, another 2017 draft choice not exactly capitalizing on chances, got beaten inside on a slant route by Hatcher for a touchdown pass from Connor Cook with 5:55 left.
Back to the good: Griffin started in front of his twin Shaquill Griffin, the Seahawks’ left cornerback, and next to Austin Calitro, who excelled playing for resting All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. The Griffin brothers were the only starters in Seattle’s base defense Thursday who are expected to start when the regular season begins Sept. 9 at Denver.
Griffin is almost certainly going to start the opener for Wright. Seattle’s Pro Bowl linebacker rejoined the team Friday after being away for arthroscopic knee surgery he had on Monday. Carroll said Thursday the “most optimistic” estimate for Wright’s return to playing was two weeks. He had the surgery 13 days before the opener.
Wagner, always teaching though he wasn’t playing Thursday, walked off the field with Shaquem Griffin at the start of halftime. For 50 yards up the sideline and into the tunnel leading to the Seahawks’ locker room, Wagner was talking to the rookie. With 2:00 left, Griffin was still at Wagner’s side, getting knowledge on the sideline.
Wright walked the sidelines before the game seemingly limping.
Lynch, by the way, made the rounds with his former Seahawks teammates before the game. He was not in uniform for it.
Running back Chris Carson ran two times for 5 yards and caught a pass from Davis for 1 yard on Seattle’s first drive. Carson, tight end Nick Vannett, wide receiver Tyler Lockett, right tackle Germain Ifedi and left guard Ethan Pocic were the only first-teamers on offense to start Thursday.
Ifedi left after the first drive, then limped into the locker room.
“Yeah, he did turn his ankle,” Carroll said, adding he didn’t know the exact severity of the injury.
Even though the coach didn’t think it was serious, he said Ifedi likely we need the three extra days off the Seahawks get before resuming practice Monday for the opener.
Interestingly, after Ifedi left, the Seahawks moved Willie Beavers to right tackle and not George Fant. Fant went to left tackle, where he was earlier this month in his return from reconstructive knee surgery.
So much for Fant competing with the previously struggling Ifedi for the starting job at right tackle. That lasted about a week, it appears. Nothing has suggested anything other than Ifedi starting the opener at right tackle. He played well last week at Minnesota, and that seemingly repelled the challenge from Fant. For now.
The Seahawks expected wide receiver Amara Darboh to play and make a late bid to claim a roster spot at a position where all six spots seem filled already (by Doug Baldwin, who did not play Thursday, Lockett, Brandon Marshall, Brown, David Moore and special-teams mainstay Marcus Johnson). But Darboh did not play, ending a month he missed most of because of hip and clavicle injuries. The third-round pick in 2017 becomes a candidate for the injured-reserve list this weekend.
The wonders of rookie punter/phenomenon Michael Dickson continued. He nailed a soaring, 54-yard punt onto the sideline in the first half. In the fourth quarter, he punted the ball out of bounds at the opponent’s 3-yard line for the third time in two games.
It’s not just he height and the distances on his punts that makes what the Australian is doing so remarkable. It’s the direction of his booming boots. Most are at or beyond the sideline, making them difficult or impossible to return.
After Ryan Carter made a strong play to reach across the goal line with the ball while getting tackled for a 10-yard touchdown pass from McGough, and Sebastian Janikowski missed his second point after touchdown of the game, Dickson drop-kicked what was supposed to be a pooch kickoff 65 yards into the end zone for a touchback. It wasn’t want he and the Seahawks wanted while trying to get back possession.
But, like most of what the former Aussie Rules Football player has done this preseason, it was cool.