Wednesday, January 04, 2017
By Tim Britton
January 4, 2017
FOXBORO, Mass. - A Patriots defense that had been maligned in the first half of the season ended it allowing fewer points than anybody in football. Over their final seven games of the season, the Pats allowed a total of 87 points, including only 20 in the final three weeks.
No single player is as symbolic of New England's second-half defensive revival than Trey Flowers, who has accumulated all seven of his sacks this season over the final nine games. He's no longer just a cog in a solid defensive-line rotation with Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard. He's become the line's biggest force.
Flowers' evolution this season has helped New England overcome the loss of Chandler Jones' 12.5 sacks from a season ago. Lining up both on the outside at end and the inside at tackle, Flowers has shown a unique ability to create pressure over the latter part of the season.
On the interior, he's able to mitigate his size disadvantage against bigger guards by using his long arms.
"They want to get their hands on me so I can't maneuver and squeeze my way out of it," he said. "Using my extension to not let them get my hands on me is a good part of my game."
It's unsurprising that Flowers would break down his interior success this way. This is a man whom teammates call "Technique" - a nickname that makes up for its lack of flash with an apparent sense of respect for the second-year man.
"It started off as a joke, guys kind of teasing me about how I work. I guess it stuck," Flowers said, adding he'd need to "find out the mole" after the moniker was revealed during Sunday's game broadcast. "I've always been one of those guys that always wanted to work on his craft and perfect it. Even doing extra things after practice and doing things that help me elevate my game, I've always been one to work on that."
"Trey just does a great job of playing the fundamentals the way that we want him to," defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Monday. "He's a guy that really tries to improve himself. He studies very hard, really tries to do the things the way that we want them done. He understands the scheme.
"He's a guy that's just really kind of accepted a bunch of different roles and has really tried to excel at all of them and just tried to improve every day. He's a true professional that comes in, works hard and studies, really pays attention and takes great notes."
That understanding of the scheme allows Flowers to flourish whether lining up inside or out - something he had some experience with from his college days at Arkansas.
"In this defense, you've just got to understand the scheme of things and understand that if you're in this position, you're doing this thing and in that position you're doing that thing," he said. "You've just got to be able to move in and out like that. I don't think it's tough."
All this work has clearly paid off in Flowers' second season after being selected in the fourth round in 2015. Flowers' rookie season was more or less silent. It wasn't that he didn't register a sack; he didn't register a single stat. He played only one game before hitting injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
"Obviously last year was a hard year for me. That was my first time sitting out since I started playing at seven years old," he said. "To be able to come back and just be prepared and just be able to help my team win is definitely a blessing."
With a bye this week and the next opponent still unknown, Flowers said he and his teammates are spending their time working on themselves. Why not? It's paid off all season for Technique.
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