Flowers has embraced unique role with Bengals

CINCINNATI -- Tre Flowers had already made one position change when he was with the Seattle Seahawks, so when he arrived with the Cincinnati Bengals last October, he was open to whatever defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo had in mind for him.

The former college safety was claimed off waivers on Oct. 14, 2021, after three-plus seasons as a starting outside cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks. Anarumo saw his physicality as an asset that could help the Bengals in a different role the following week, heading into their first matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

Anarumo wanted Flowers to cover Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews. In helping the Bengals limit Andrews to three receptions for 48 yards in a blowout victory, it was clear Flowers had carved out a spot for himself.

Since then, Flowers has been tasked with defending some of the best tight ends in the league, particularly in red-zone and third-down situations, and he says he is up to the task of matching up with Andrews once again Sunday when the Bengals play the Ravens in primetime at M&T Bank Stadium.

“I just love to compete, so if he’s the best tight end, I want to guard him,” Flowers said. “If he’s the best receiver, I want to guard him. So, any challenge I’m all for it. Just want to compete and get better. He can do anything, everything. He can catch, he can block. He’s bigger than most, faster than you’d probably think as a tight end, real good hands. Great player, so I look forward to the challenge.”

Flowers started 37 games in three seasons with Seattle, but after three games in 2021, he was limited to special teams work and eventually released in Week 6.

Cincinnati was looking a little thin at cornerback, and the Bengals had struggled in Week 5 to stop Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson, who wracked up 74 yards on eight catches and 11 targets. The Bengals knew Andrews had been a problem in the past. The Ravens tight end averaged 59 yards and nearly one touchdown per game in four matchups between 2019 and 2020, including a 99-yard outing and a two-touchdown performance.

Flowers gave the Bengals a new solution.

“I just think he did a good job when his number was called, whether it was against Baltimore or Kansas City or whoever -- San Francisco -- all those games he had to play that role against some of those bigger guys,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “Tre’s just got a lot of confidence about him, and we’ve got a lot of confidence in him as well.”

Flowers, originally a fifth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State, finished last season with 17 tackles and a pass defensed in 11 regular-season games and appeared in all four postseason games, seeing action on 17.5 percent of snaps and recording seven tackles and two passes defensed.

His matchups included limiting Darren Waller to two catches for 34 yards over two meetings, holding George Kittle to 17 yards on two catches against him and keeping Travis Kelce to two catches for seven yards in two meetings. Andrews had a big game in the second meeting last year with eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown, but only two of those catches (23 yards) were against Flowers.

“Tre’s done a great job,” Taylor said. “Tre steps up and plays his role to a tee, does a great job on special teams and the different roles that Lou and those coaches put him in on defense. He brings a lot of confidence with his play. Made a lot of big plays for us vs some tough matchups, whether it’s in zone or man coverage. Tre just does a really good job. That’s one of those mid-season pickups last year that’s really paid off well for us. ... Tre’s played a big role for us. We’re happy to have him.”

The Bengals re-signed Flowers this offseason, and coming up on the one-year anniversary of his arrival in Cincinnati, he says he is feeling even more comfortable in the system and capable of contributing even more in Year 2.

Flowers said he brought from Seattle a strong awareness of the ball because of the emphasis the Seahawks placed on turnovers, and now knowing the style of Anarumo’s defense and the “IQ of everything,” he is better equipped to make an impact this season.

“Just studying more, you know, it’s been a year,” Flowers said. “This game makes it a year since I’ve been here, so I would say just actually getting a reset coming into this season, now a full year, I just take a step back and learn, take a step forward and going into it just knowing how to prepare, knowing what they’re asking me to do. It’s just as better in my opinion.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Bengals at Ravens, 8:20 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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