Thursday, November 09, 2017

Patriots DE Trey Flowers disrupts while blooming

By Rich Garven
November 8, 2017

FOXBORO — Defensive end Trey Flowers capped the Patriots’ bye week with a four-day getaway to his family home in Alabama, during which time he rested, relaxed and recharged from a taxing first half of the season.

It was a welcome and much-needed break mentally and physically for Flowers, who has performed at a Pro Bowl-worthy level when he has been out there — which is pretty much always — after his breakout campaign a year ago.

“It’s a long season,” Flowers said during a break in preparations for Sunday night’s tilt with the Broncos in Denver. “It’s a tough game, the NFL. So you’re going to have some bumps and bruises along the way. To get an extra week under your belt and get refreshed and things like that is very important.”

Flowers’ ascension from unremarkable rookie to indispensable defensive disrupter has been incredibly impressive.

Drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round (101st overall) in 2015, Flowers played four snaps in his lone appearance as a rookie. He finished the year on injured reserve with shoulder and knee woes.

However, the 6-foot-2, 265-pound Flowers made his presence felt last season, appearing in all 19 games and trending upward from September to February in terms of activity and impact.

He earned 29.8 percent of the defensive snaps in the first half of the season, 40.6 percent in the second half and 86.6 percent in the postseason. Along the way, he recorded a team-high seven sacks over the final nine games of the regular season and added 2½ sacks in Super Bowl LI.

“His understanding of what we do, I think it’s along the natural progression,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “There’s not that many guys that just come in ... play all the snaps immediately. So he’s a guy that falls into that category.

“Someone that’s worked really hard to try to earn himself some time on the field and has shown the consistency to be out there as much as we can get him out there and put him in those positions. I would definitely say his work ethic and the way that he approaches the game is great.”

It’s been more — make that much more — of the same in his third season.

Flowers played 91.1 percent of the snaps in the first eight games, helping the Patriots to six wins. He’s collected 36 tackles, 3½ sacks, an additional 9½ quarterback hits, a pass defensed, and, whew, a forced fumble.

All that while never taking a play off. Flowers has a better motor than a McLaren F1 and puts out more energy than National Grid.

“I just go out there with the mentality to make a play, do the best I can,” Flowers said. “If I’m out there I just see it as an opportunity for me to make a play. As far as staying out there, being out there a lot of snaps, that’s all due to preparation throughout the week, doing a little extra cardio, extra things that allow you to stay in shape to continue with a high motor even throughout the long games.”

While Flowers regularly stuffs the stat sheet, he also frequently influences plays that others end up finishing.

Think back to linebacker Kyle Van Noy tackling receiver Taylor Gabriel for a 5-yard loss on fourth and goal early in the fourth quarter of a win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7. Afterward, Van Noy credited his free path into the backfield to a block Flowers made at the line of scrimmage.

It’s all about taking what Flowers hears from his coaches and sees on film over the course of a week and translating it to the field during a span of three hours on Sunday, Monday or Thursday.

“Say I’m in there and hear different communication within the O-linemen, I can just call something to kind of put our defense in the right position to make plays or the right position to be productive on that play,” Flowers said.

“So I think it goes into just being in the league, definitely having the IQ and paying attention to how the offense or the offensive line wants to block us.”

Rested and relaxed, Flowers is ready for the second half of a season that has seen him to play a lot and make a lot of plays while becoming arguably the Patriots’ most important defender.

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