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In 2020, Jacksonville’s cornerbacks combined to allow (gulp) 19 touchdowns, and that group picked off just three passes. Sub-optimal, to be sure. That entire Jaguars secondary was a disaster, which is why the team already pulled the trigger on Rayshawn Jenkins, the underrated former Chargers deep safety, and it’s also why they’ve agreed to terms with ex-Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
Per Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic, it’s a three-year deal worth up to $45 million with $29 million guaranteed. The guaranteed money puts Griffin in the Marcus Peters/Darius Slay/Denzel Ward region (it’s actually somewhat similar to Peters’ current three-year, $42 million deal with $31,468,118 guaranteed), and though Griffin has been a good player, he hasn’t been quite that.
There was some thought that when the Seahawks selected Griffin in the third round of the 2017 draft out of Central Florida, he had all the tools to extend Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense as the first instigators started finding other homes or retiring. It didn’t quite work out that way; Griffin has generally been a solid cornerback with good technique and instincts who falls just short in the elite eraser sweepstakes. He did have three interceptions in 2020, and showed off a lot of the things that will have teams believing in him as a CB2 in 2021 and beyond….
And this deflection of a Matt Ryan pass to tight end Hayden Hurst against the Falcons in Week 1 is as acrobatic as any coverage play I saw all season.
The problem isn’t what Griffin does well, there’s enough of that to impress. The problem is that Griffin doesn’t have that extra closing click that sets the best cornerbacks apart. He’s a step slow at the end of routes to move in and take the ball in coverage, and he’s more vulnerable to the big play than you’d like — set the three picks aside, and Griffin also allowed 46 completions on 76 yards for 575 yards and five touchdowns, and an opposing QBR of 89.53.
Does that put Griffin in CB2 range? Certainly. Where is his best fit? Well, four of his touchdowns allowed and all three of his interceptions came in zone coverage last season, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag. But the defensive coach(es) who can teach Griffin to be more aggressive to the ball might have a top-10 cornerback on their hands. That is now the job of Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen, and secondary coaches Chris Ash and Joe Danna.