RENTON, WA - After losing both of their starters from a year ago in free agency, the Seahawks entered training camp with plenty of questions at cornerback. Two games into the regular season, based on Pete Carroll's comments on Monday, those concerns haven't been alleviated.
Speaking with reporters via Zoom one day after Seattle lost 33-30 to Tennessee in overtime, Carroll didn't offer up the most glowing of evaluations when asked about how he felt starting cornerbacks D.J. Reed and Tre Flowers played.
"Well, they managed through the game," Carroll said. "They're battling. They were involved with a lot of different coverages and a lot of different stuff that they did. They were involved in run support quite a bit too, in the game, like the one on the big play that we missed."
The last play Carroll referenced was a 60-yard touchdown run by Titans running back Derrick Henry early in the fourth quarter. After bouncing the run outside, Flowers wasn't able to set the edge and make the tackle, allowing the runner to accelerate down the sideline and cut the Seahawks lead to 30-23 with 12 minutes left in regulation.
That mishap proved to be a microcosm of Flowers' performance, as Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill picked on him early and often in coverage against receiver Julio Jones. In the first half, he surrendered three receptions and 87 yards to Jones, including a 51-yard bomb down where he was beaten downfield with a subtle double move by the veteran wideout. He also gave up a 15-yard catch to A.J. Brown and another potential explosive play was dropped by Brown on a deep post route.
Flowers did improve his play in coverage after halftime, slipping his hand in for a pass breakup defending a quick slant by Brown and allowing zero receptions in the final two-plus quarters of action. But he finished the contest allowing four receptions for 102 yards and a 107.4 passer rating while also missing the key tackle on Henry's long touchdown scamper, turning in a poor outing overall.
As for Reed, the fourth-year cornerback had a far more productive day against the Titans, allowing two receptions for 22 yards on four targets and turning in several quality plays in coverage. He denied Brown in the end zone on Tennessee's second drive to force the visitors to settle for a field goal and though he ultimately was flagged for taunting after the play, he also stuck with Brown on a go route in the fourth quarter to force a long incompletion.
While Carroll went out of his way not to call Flowers out and protect his player, it was evident reading through the tea leaves during his press conference that he wasn't pleased with many of the mistakes Flowers made on Sunday and his insight seemed to be indirectly aimed at him.
"I didn't like the big post route - that was safety help as well - but we got beat on a double move one time with Tre that didn't look good," Carroll stated. "But they're hanging in there."
It's still early in the season and with 15 games left to play, the Seahawks may not be inclined yet to make a change in the secondary. But Carroll's remarks should put Flowers, who already lost his starting job prior to the 2020 season, back on notice.
Making the situation a bit more interesting, the Seahawks have three newcomers on the roster who arrived shortly before the start of the regular season in Sidney Jones, John Reid, and Bless Austin who have been slowly getting acclimated. With each player now having at least two weeks of practice under his belt, Carroll has seen signs all three could give the secondary a boost at some point in the near future if needed.
The issue has been finding practice reps for each player. Only practicing three times a week, Reed and Flowers receive the bulk of the already limited snaps at a position Carroll noted Seattle hasn't typically used a platoon, which has prevented the coaching staff from being able to see what Jones, Austin, and Reid can do playing with the first unit. That could be changing before long, however.
"It’s all practice stuff and a little special teams stuff so far," Carroll responded when asked about Jones' readiness. "It’s a little bit of a challenge for us to get him, and Bless [Austin] too, to get those guys enough really good reps to see them on our field with us. I think I said this last week, they are accumulating reps and opportunities as they work and both those guys look good. They look like they can help us. We just have to make the call when it’s time to give them a chance to play."
If the team isn't comfortable with giving Jones, Reid, or Austin a chance to start, it's still possible the Seahawks could also revisit signing veteran Richard Sherman, though Carroll told ESPN 710 on his weekly Monday morning show that nothing was in the works on that front at this time. The former All-Pro has reportedly received interest from the Buccaneers and 49ers as he tries to get back on the field after an off-field incident back in July.
For the time being, Flowers and Reed will likely remain the starters for the Seahawks as they begin preparations for the Vikings in Week 3. But if that game doesn't go well against a talented receiving corps led by Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, particularly for a struggling Flowers, changes could certainly be on the horizon soon.