Seahawks' Shaquem Griffin should improve his pass-rush 'batting average'

RENTON, Wash. -- Pete Carroll's assessment of Shaquem Griffin through five games as a member of the Seattle Seahawks' pass-rush rotation included a baseball analogy.

"He's active. He's on the move," the coach said. "We're going to need him this week. This guy can fly. He's going to be better. He's going to get better. It's like a batting average for him. He's got a lot of bad swings out there but he's going to have some shots that I think are going to be impacting here. We need it right this week, and we'll need it next week, and ongoing. I like him being out there, though."

"This guy" is Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who comes to CenturyLink Field on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox) having been sacked an NFL-high 46 times this season. And Carroll's mention of "bad swings" was his way of describing some unproductive snaps from Griffin as he's gotten reacclimated to rushing the passer after playing mostly on special teams for his first season and a half in the NFL.

Griffin is still waiting on his first sack, but has had some productive at-bats, so to speak. The most productive was a pressure on Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff on Dec. 8. It led to an overthrown pass that Quandre Diggs picked off and returned for a touchdown. That was one of three QB hits so far for Griffin, who's had 42 pass-rush plays on 83 defensive snaps. He also blew up a handoff in Week 12 at Philadelphia, causing a fumble that Seattle recovered.

Among NFL defenders with at least 40 pass-rush snaps, Griffin ranks 26th in pass rush win rate with nine wins in 42 chances. That ESPN metric, which is powered by Next Gen Stats, measures how often a defender beats his blocker in 2.5 seconds or quicker. Griffin's PRWR of 21.4% is the Seahawks' second-best, behind Jadeveon Clowney's 25.1%.

"I feel like it's been going really good," Griffin said last week. "It's so crazy because even when you think you're getting closer and closer and you think next week's going to be the one, then you get even closer. You're like, 'Man, I could have got that sack.' But then again, when you get an interception, it's just like, 'OK, I can take that, too.'"

After becoming the first player with one hand in the NFL's modern era to be drafted, Griffin spent his rookie 2018 season backing up K.J. Wright on the weak side. That's the linebacker who plays in space in Carroll's defense, and the Seahawks saw it as an opportunity for Griffin to use his 4.38 speed. But he struggled while starting the season opener and played only nine more defensive snaps even with Wright injured for most of the season.

The Seahawks moved Griffin this past offseason to the strong side, where he's backing up Mychal Kendricks. That position plays on the ball and more closely resembles what Griffin played at Central Florida, where he doubled as a standup edge rusher and racked up 18.5 sacks over his final 26 games.

"When I was in college, all I did was just run fast, make a few moves, spin off a lot of guys and make sacks," he said. "I think now I've got great coaches to kind of teach me the form of everything, knowing how to use my hands, knowing what to look at, knowing how to press the issue on different O-linemen, knowing how to take advantage of their weaknesses.

"So it's like more in depth on what I need to do. Now I have a rush plan. After learning from them, it gave me confidence. In college, it was just me going full speed all the time, running all over the place, being a maniac and just making plays. But now it's like, I can be a maniac and make plays and do it the right way."

The Seahawks might get Clowney and Ziggy Ansah back for Sunday's game after they missed last weekend's victory over Carolina. Carroll intimated that first-round pick L.J. Collier, who played 37 defensive snaps in that game, will continue to see the field after playing sparingly for most of his rookie season. But Carroll has also talked about Griffin as though he'll continue to factor heavily into the pass-rush rotation.

"He looks fast. He's giving great effort," Carroll said. "He's just a flash from getting home. He'll improve. We'll use him better, too. We're trying to work with his style because his style is unique and how he plays. I don't think we’ve nailed it yet, but we're honing in on it."