The only move that Seahawks fans have unanimously applauded this offseason was the acquisition of Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback Quinton Dunbar for a fifth-round pick from Washington. Pairing him with Pro Bowl corner Shaquill Griffin and, at the time, Bradley McDougald and Quandre Diggs made the secondary one of the better units in the league.
Unfortunately, Dunbar is unlikely to play this year after being charged with four counts of armed robbery in Florida and Seattle is scrambling as a result. The team did add All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and still has Diggs and Griffin, giving the Seahawks three-fourths of a premier secondary. But now instead of Dunbar locking down the other side, Seattle will turn back to third-year corner Tre Flowers instead.
Most fans lasting image of Flowers are of him getting "worked" by Davante Adams in the final game of the 2020 season. He also struggled in the previous game against the Eagles with a pair of pass interference penalties. And he didn't exactly finish the regular season in style. This stack of subpar performances may have led the Seahawks to acquire Dunbar in the first place, but fans shouldn't write him off entirely as a result.
People often forget that Flowers, a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, spent most of his collegiate career at Oklahoma State playing safety, not cornerback. He has the ideal size to play in Carroll's scheme. He stands a 6-foot-3 and has the monstrous 34-inch arms and 79 3/8 inch wingspan Carroll covets.
In his rookie season, Flowers made 15 starts and showed real promise, racking up 67 tackles, six passes defended, and three forced fumbles. It was a great effort for a rookie learning a new position on the fly and led some to wonder if Flowers could make the leap to cornerback one after Griffin's struggles in his sophomore season.
But in year two, it was Griffin who took the leap while Flowers stagnated a bit, but there was still positive growth in his game. In his second year, Flowers again made 15 starts and accumulated 82 tackles, eight passes defended, three interceptions, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
There is no denying that Flowers had his struggles in 2019, but they are greatly exaggerated because of the lackluster finish. In fact, Flowers showed significant improvements in opposing completion percentage, yards allowed, yards per completion, and passer rating against. The one area he did regress was in his missed tackle percentage.
In 2018, Flowers missed 13 percent of his tackle opportunities. In 2019, that number jumped to 15.5 percent. Flowers' yards given up and air yards both dropped by nearly the same number. So Flowers wasn't getting beat deep more often than his rookie season and his issues stemmed from missed tackles, particularly on quick throws.
This is great news for the Seahawks because Flowers isn't an unwilling tackler. In fact, he has laid some vicious hits on wideouts, running backs, and even quarterbacks. This points to a technical problem more than a desire issue. Flowers didn't magically lose the skills he flashed in his rookie season. In fact, the evidence suggest that he did, in fact, sharpen those skills, with tackling as the lone exception.
For the time being, there is no doubt that of the four starters in the current secondary (excluding the nickel corner for a moment), Flowers has the most to prove in 2020. It may be ideal for Flowers to be your Byron Maxwell to Dunbar's Brandon Browner, but the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Flowers has 30 career starts under his belt. He did, in fact, improve from year one to year two by just about any statistical measure. He has shown that he can cause turnovers, be physical, and even get after the quarterback a little bit. And he just turned 25 years old and will only be entering his third season playing cornerback.
Seattle could try to upgrade from Flowers by pursuing a free agent such as Logan Ryan, but they could also be in a lot rougher shape considering circumstances. The third-year pro should be given another chance to show what he can do and has the upside to make Dunbar's absence more than manageable.