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Tre Flowers is now back in line to start in a pivotal 3rd season

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday morning began with a foreboding bit of news for Tre Flowers, something expected for nearly two months: Quinton Dunbar was coming to the Seahawks to compete for, and likely takeover, Flowers’ right cornerback spot.

By Thursday evening, Dunbar’s career and freedom were in serious doubt, following news of a warrant issued for his arrest. As a result of Dunbar’s brief stint in Seattle that wasn’t, Flowers re-enters the picture he never fully left, with his corner position opposite Shaquill Griffin his to lose for a third straight season.

This news was met with cynical responses and groans born out of pass interference flags, and fairly so—Flowers’ stalled progression as a sophomore was made to look worse by Griffin’s ascension to true No. 1 cornerback status. But to give up on Flowers now would have been hasty, even when Dunbar was expected to start in his place.

The 2019 season was just Flowers’ second-ever playing cornerback, after spending his collegiate career at safety. As a result, growing pains were to be expected—and they did come. However, the long physical corner showed signs of improvement, as well. Targeted 15 more times in 2019 than ‘18, Flowers’ yards per target allowed dropped by 1.4 yards, from 9.2 to 7.8, while his yards after the catch allowed per reception dropped from 5.05 to 4.7. Both improved figures reflect the converted safety’s growing trust in his eyes and comfort at the position. Flowers consistently broke on the ball and the receiver with good timing.

Despite playing across from a much-improved Griffin and being targeted one time more per game than as a rookie, Flowers’ completion percentage in coverage stayed nearly the same, from 57.3 percent as a rookie to 58.9 percent as a sophomore. With increased targets came increased ball production, as well, as Flowers boosted his number from six PBUs and zero interceptions in 2018 to six PBUs and three interceptions as a sophomore. With four forced fumbles to his name through two seasons as well, Flowers has shown a knack for finding and taking away the football.

Of course, Flowers has not been perfect by any means. No player cost the Seahawks more penalty yards in 2019 than Flowers, at 86—a full 60 yards more than he was penalized as a rookie—with a large chunk coming through back-breaking pass interference calls downfield. However, a fair number of those came as a result of Flowers failing to get his head around and attempt to make a play on the football. That should be an entirely correctable area as he enters his third season playing cornerback. Flowers went from having his eyes on the quarterback and the play developing at safety, to having his back to the football and the quarterback. That is, without a doubt, not an easy adjustment to make, and one he is still struggling to make.

Along with penalties, Flowers’ rough end to the season, torched by Davante Adams in the divisional round loss to the Packers, is what most look to when criticizing him. In that January loss, Adams posted a stunning eight catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Of that production, three catches, 74 yards and the two scores game matched up against Flowers. All three of Adams’ wins against Flowers were in single coverage; it was about as unbalanced as a mismatch can get, one of the league’s best route runners against a corner who relies on physicality and length.

Year three is a pivotal one for Flowers. Barring a late offseason acquisition, he should retain his starting spot and be relatively unchallenged for a third straight season. In 2020, however, Flowers is going to need to prove it or lose it. With ideal size, length, and athleticism to play cornerback in Pete Carroll’s defense, Flowers is in a great position to succeed. A wild Thursday gifted Flowers another opportunity, now it’s on him to take it.