Questions surround Quandre Diggs, Shaquill Griffin in Seahawks' secondary

Tre Flowers faces a crucial third season after struggling in the divisional playeff game against Green Bay. Quinn Harris/Getty Images

This was not how Tre Flowers wanted to end his up-and-down second season as the Seattle Seahawks' starting right cornerback:

  • Committing two defensive pass interference penalties, for a total of 59 yards, in the wild-card playoff round.

  • Allowing a perfect passer rating and at least one touchdown in the divisional round.

Flowers was in coverage on both of Davante Adams' scores in the Seahawks' loss to Green Bay. He and rookie nickelback Ugo Amadi appeared to miscommunicate on the first one, so it's not clear who erred. At any rate, Flowers' struggles that night puts his starting job in question in 2020.

“That we've got to get better,” coach Pete Carroll said, in part, when asked what his message was to Flowers.

Indeed, the pass rush isn't the only thing that needs fixing in a defense that was in the bottom third of the NFL by most statistical measures. The Seahawks need to get better at right cornerback, whether through Flowers improving or finding his replacement in the 2020 draft or free agency.

That's far from the only question with Seattle's secondary this offseason. Here's a position-by-position review of how the 2019 season went and what it could mean for 2020.

Outside cornerback

Flowers was passable, if rarely spectacular, in the regular season. According to Pro Football Focus data, he allowed a lower passer rating (82.6) when he was the nearest defender in coverage than left cornerback Shaquill Griffin (96.3), who was a Pro Bowl injury replacement. Flowers picked off three passes to Griffin's zero.

As a college safety who’s played corner for only two seasons, Flowers has plenty of room to grow. The Seahawks need to determine if those potential gains are enough for him to keep his spot.

Griffin's career arc should give him some hope. Griffin regressed in 2018 -- his second season -- and had a particularly bad game in Seattle's playoff loss at Dallas. He played his best football in 2019 after transforming his body and is in line for a contract extension. It's one reason why the Seahawks won't write Flowers off just yet, even if they bring in someone to compete with him.

"Come back next year and capitalize on all of the experiences, settle in," Carroll said of his message to Flowers a day after the Packers loss. "That's what I was talking about going into the game, trying to do a nice job of getting him settled down. This is two big years that he's had. ... He's going to continue to get better. He's a really smart player, he's tough as hell, he really competes and all that. He'll make good progress I think from the Year 2 to 3.”

The size and arm length that Carroll prefers is going to limit the Seahawks' options at outside cornerback. But the deep list of starting cornerbacks who could become free agents includes Byron Jones and Artie Burns, who fit the specs.

According to PFF, Griffin (15) and Flowers (13) were second and tied for third, respectively, among cornerbacks in missed tackles last season. And Flowers' three interceptions were the only three by a Seattle cornerback, including nickelbacks. The total was the same in 2018. The Seahawks need Griffin to take a step forward there. And they need a player opposite him who can take the ball away, be it Flowers or someone else.


It remains a mystery as to why Marquise Blair didn’t play more as a rookie. The second-round pick made impact plays and lived up to his reputation as a thumper in his three starts, but the Seahawks instead went with Lano Hill at free safety when a sprained ankle sidelined Quandre Diggs for the final 2½ games of the regular season.

Carroll's explanation was simple: Hill had more experience than Blair, who missed valuable time in spring and summer because of injuries. But Hill didn't look like a seasoned veteran in those two starts nor against Green Bay, when he was late to help out Amadi on a 32-yard Adams reception that helped put the game away.

With a year under his belt, Blair will be the favorite to start alongside Diggs in 2020. That makes Bradley McDougald a potential salary-cap casualty. McDougald finished the season strong, playing perhaps his best game in the wild-card round, and wasn't on the injury report after Week 9. But working against him is his combination of age (29), diminished speed and a $5.43 million cap number in the final year of his contract, steep for a backup. Seattle would save $4.1 million against the cap by releasing McDougald.

Tedric Thompson's future doesn't seem certain, either. He had his moments -- two key interceptions in consecutive October wins -- but committed some costly errors in six starts at free safety before season-ending surgery for a torn labrum. Thompson met the playing-time requirements to earn a raise to a non-guaranteed $2.147 million for the final year of his rookie deal. If Blair is a starter in 2020, it's hard to imagine Seattle keeping both McDougald and Thompson as backups combining to count nearly $8 million against the cap. It might be one or the other.

Perhaps the only certainty in this position group is that Diggs will be starting at free safety. Seattle's defense was better across the board with Diggs on the field. He's eligible for an extension as he enters the final year of the contract the Seahawks inherited when they acquired him from Detroit in October.


According to ESPN charting, the Seahawks' 308 defensive snaps with at least five defensive backs was by far the fewest in the NFL. That was less than half of the next-fewest total, Arizona's 633.

They wouldn't have had to remain in their base 4-3 defense -- which meant keeping strongside linebacker Mychal Kendricks on the field against three-receiver sets -- if they had a nickelback option who was better than Jamar Taylor and more ready than Amadi. The Seahawks went with Amadi to begin the season before turning to Taylor, and then turning back to Amadi after releasing Taylor.

Carroll was noncommittal as to whether they'll stick with their base-heavy approach next season. Amadi's development in Year 2 should have some bearing on that decision. Seattle won't hand him that job, but it appears it will be his to lose.