What’s the next step for Seahawks CBs Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers?
The Seahawks’ secondary has been the center of discussion surrounding the team as training camp has kicked off due to the acquisition of All-Pro safety Jamal Adams.
Entering the 2020 season, the back end of Seattle’s defense features multiple players who could make the Pro Bowl, and the safety tandem of Adams and Quandre Diggs is an exciting prospect, especially since the 2019 Seahawks struggled mightily on defense against the run and the pass.
While the safety tandem is set and pretty clear overall, the starting cornerback positions have a little less certainty due to the unclear status of Quinton Dunbar, who the Seahawks acquired from Washington ahead of the 2020 draft. He’s on the NFL’s Commissioner’s Exempt List due to his alleged role in a Florida armed robbery, so it looks as if the Seahawks will roll with the cornerback tandem of 2019 Pro Bowler Shaquill Griffin, who is entering his fourth year in the NFL, and Tre Flowers, who has started for Seattle during his first two NFL seasons.
Head coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Monday that the team is “in the developmental stage” with the young cornerback pairing.
“I thought Shaq had a great season last year for us. Really bounced back,” Carroll said. “I thought year one to year two we thought he could do better. Year three, I thought he did a fantastic job. I thought he exploded. (He was) a playmaking, physical, count on come through guy, all of that. Big plays, all of that stuff, he did.”
After a successful rookie season in 2017, expectations were high for Griffin in 2018. He didn’t take a big leap like many had hoped, but as Carroll mentioned, he rebounded in a big way in 2019, earning his first Pro Bowl nod. Now, Flowers is in the same situation that Griffin was in between 2018 and 2019.
“In year two for Tre, I thought also kind of maybe not as much ground we made up as I would have liked, so he comes back for us with a whole other experience in his back pocket,” Carroll said. “I’m going to expect him to be – in fact, I’ve already talked to him about this – very aggressive, very physical, and make sure that we take advantage of the two years that he’s got behind him now and it really comes to the front.”
Many soured on Flowers at the end of the year, especially because of his play in the Seahawks’ two playoff games, but Dave Wyman of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Dave and Moore thought Flowers did a better job than people think and he really needs to improve in just one facet of his game.
“To me, the biggest problem with him was he didn’t trust himself,” he said after listening to Carroll talk about Seattle’s cornerbacks. “He was grabbing too much and I didn’t see him get beat real badly, it’s just that he had those penalties and that’s one thing I think he needs to work on.”
Jim Moore said he thought what Carroll said about the third-year defensive back was encouraging, but that it’s a shame Dunbar may not be able to suit up and take Flowers’ starting job.
“If you get Dunbar, now you’re starting to talk about a back four there that’s maybe not in the same sentence as the Legion of Boom, but you can start making legit comparisons to the Legion of Boom if you added Dunbar back there with Shaquill Griffin,” he said, referencing Seahawks’ historic secondary of the early- and mid-2010s that helped lead Seattle to the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
When it comes to Griffin, Moore isn’t as impressed as others due to his lack of takeaways. Griffin has three career interceptions and he had none in 2019.
“I just feel if you’re a starting left corner in the NFL you should have more than zero interceptions to call it a good season,” Moore said. “And he hasn’t had an interception since he had two in Week 2 against (Chicago) of the 2018 season. So it’s a big season, really, for Shaquill Griffin because he’s entering the last year of his contract and he’s sitting on the doorstep of a $14 or $15 million payday if he can just make some more plays out there at left corner.”
Former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus believes that Griffin being on a contract year could mean we see him play slightly differently than in his first three NFL seasons.
“Sometimes you get to that contract year and guys do things they haven’t done their whole career,” he said. “Maybe he’ll be motivated. I don’t think he’s not working hard, I don’t think he’s not a hard worker, but it’s just different when there’s money on the line. Maybe he takes more chances, maybe he’s more aggressive attacking the ball when it’s in the air. I don’t know. He knows he doesn’t have any interceptions, so let’s see what he does.”
Griffin being more aggressive shouldn’t be too big of a transition for the fourth-year cornerback, Bumpus said.
“I feel like he’s normally in good position, he’s normally on the receiver’s hip,” he said. “He’s a fast guy and he can kind of take chances because he’s a fast guy, but on defense it’s all about causing turnovers, right?”
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