The Miami Dolphins signed free agent linebacker Shaquem Griffin on Friday, adding a potential key special teams contributor and depth on defense to the roster. While many of us are familiar with Griffin from his time at UCF, we may not have seen how he has transitioned to the NFL after being selected in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
To get a closer look at Griffin, who recorded two tackles against the Dolphins in 2020, I turned to Mookie Alexander, the managing editor of Field Gulls, SB Nation’s Seahawks site. I asked Alexander what the Dolphins would be getting in Griffin and why the Seahawks let him leave in free agency. He covered all that and more:
I‘m half-joking when I say that Shaquem’s departure boiled down more to [his twin brother, cornerback] Shaquill Griffin leaving than anything else. I bet if Shaquill had re-signed in free agency they would’ve kept Shaquem instead of letting him walk too. At the very least those two get to play in the same state and it’s their home state, too. But for purely football reasons there just wasn’t any feasible room for him on the depth chart either at linebacker or as a special teams contributor. As a rookie back in 2018 Seattle started him at weakside linebacker when KJ Wright was out with injury and it did not go very well. He essentially was relegated almost exclusively to special teams duties for the rest of that season.
It wasn’t until the 2nd half of 2019, a year in which Seattle had a banged up and very underwhelming pass rush, that Griffin was reinserted into the lineup for situational pass rushing purposes along the defensive line. The high-mark of course was when he and Shaquill teamed up to sack Aaron Rodgers in the playoff game. As soon as the Seahawks traded for Carlos Dunlap midway through 2020 he basically was taken out of the defensive rotation again. He did get his first (and so far only) regular season sack against Sam Darnold and had a few “nearly” moments throughout his limited playing time.
The stats really don’t provide much reason for excitement if you’re a Dolphins fan — although you’ll see flashes of his promise in the All-22. From a human interest side it’s hard not to root for him to succeed. Everyone should know by now the inspirational story of Griffin overcoming losing his left hand as a child to star at Central Florida. Unfortunately beyond the physical disability, which I think has been a problem for him at the professional level, he’s also very undersized at 6’0” and about 230 lbs. His best attribute is his speed — he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the Combine — and in both of his sacks he came off of stunt blitzes. I don’t know if Brian Flores intends to blitz as often as he did in 2020 but through two seasons it’s fair to say he likes to send extra men on the rush. That’s where Griffin could come into play with his skill set. Add in his special teams role and I think (really, more hope) he has a chance to make the 53-man roster as serviceable depth.