Friday, December 07, 2018

Marshal Yanda is Ravens’ Ed Block Courage Award Winner

By Clifton Brown
December 7, 2018

Right guard Marshal Yanda is the Ravens’ 2018 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. It is presented to the player who exemplifies a commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage, while also recognizing a player’s efforts on the field and his ability to overcome adversity.

The award was selected by a vote of Yanda’s teammates and was presented to him following Friday’s practice.
He has returned to being one of the NFL’s best offensive linemen after playing just two games in 2017 due to a season-ending ankle injury. A shoulder injury also required Yanda to have surgery last winter and he did not play at all during the preseason.

A six-time Pro Bowler, Yanda is one of the locker room’s most respected players, who has spent his entire 12-year career with the Ravens.

“You fight your tail off to come back healthy and play, and I’m very grateful to be back this year,” Yanda said. “We’re all fighting together as a team. The more years you’re in the NFL, you want guys to look up to you. You want to do things the right way every single day. You want to be a role model for those young guys. When I was a younger player, there were role models for me, guys who did it the right way every single day. I never forgot that. As I matured as a player, I wanted to be one of those guys you could look up, ask questions to, lean on.”

The award is named for Ed Block, the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts who was a respected humanitarian. In 1989, the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation formulated the Courage House National Support System for Kids.

Every team votes for one player to win the award. Quarterback Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants and defensive end Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers are among other recipients of the award this season.

A year ago, Yanda was rehabbing his ankle. Now he is playing meaningful games in December and calls this season one of his most enjoyable at age 34.

“I’m definitely living in the moment, one day at a time, one game at a time,” Yanda said. “It’s in the back of my mind that this game can be taken away from you in one play. I’m happy to be a part of it again. I’m relishing this time. I understand it’s a young man’s game and I’m an old man. But I still love competing, love the camaraderie, just love this game.”

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

New England Patriots: 5 reasons team needs to re-sign Trey Flowers

By Sam Minton
December 4, 2018

Trey Flowers will be a free agent at the end of the season and the New England Patriots No.1 priority in the offseason should be re-signing the defensive end.

The New England Patriots aren’t known for being big spenders, but this guy is worth it.
Trey Flowers has been a staple of the Patriots defense and deserves a new contract.

Flowers will be a free agent at the end of the season. Which is some bad news for Patriots fans.

Flowers definitely will have the opportunity to make some major cash. The entire NFL realizes how talented Flowers is.

Out of all the Patriots free agents, Flowers may be the most important. If New England doesn’t sign him their defense could be in big trouble. Opposing teams would dominate the Patriots defense.

The Patriots drafted Flowers in the 4th round in 2015. The defensive end has quickly become a great player known for his ability to get to the quarterback.

Flowers always seems to be causing pressure and making life difficult for quarterbacks. This helps New England’s defense out a lot.

Also when the Patriots defense is performing well, New England’s offense is usually getting more playing time.

So even though it seems that the New England Patriots are the cheapest team in all of professional sports they will need to break out the checkbook.

So here are 5 reasons that the New England Patriots need to re-sign Trey Flowers in the offseason.

1. Trey Flowers is the Patriots best pass rusher

The Patriots aren’t exactly known for having great pass rushers. They have had solid guys like Rob Ninkovich, but they haven’t had someone as dominant as Trey Flowers in a long time.

The most recent guy I can think of is Chandler Jones (now I’m imagining having Flowers and Jones on the same team which would be amazing).

It seems like Trey Flowers is in the backfield every play. Flowers could have Vince Wilfork in front of him and he would still find a way to make it into the backfield.

Flowers has proved throughout his time in New England that he is the Patriots best pass rusher. He has led the Patriots in sacks for the last 3 seasons.

The Patriots pass rush starts with Trey Flowers. If he was to leave the team I think New England would struggle mightily to get to the quarterback which isn’t ideal when you have a 41-year-old quarterback.

2. The New England Patriots need to build a strong defense

The Patriots defense has been great this season and if New England wants to be successful in the future they need to have a strong defense.

It’s a slight miracle that the New England Patriots offense is still able to score like they do. Tom Brady is defeating father time and looking like he is immortal. Sadly that isn’t the case.
The day that Brady will retire is inching closer and closer. The Patriots need to start planning for life without the quarterback.

Also Rob Gronkowski is looking like he may need to go to a retirement home soon. The tight end isn’t what he used to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronk walks away from the game in a year or two.

This all means that the Patriots offense will be undergoing a major makeover. So this means the defense has to step up and keep New England in games.

By re-signing Trey Flowers you ensure that at the minimum the Patriots will have a dominant front seven that will cause chaos in the backfield.

3. Trey Flowers is having the best season of his career

I think that this season is Trey Flowers best as a pro.

Now the numbers don’t show this. If we were going strictly by the stats, 2016 would be his best season. Flowers had 7 sacks and looked like an absolute beast.

This season stands out to me because Flowers just makes everything look easy. He isn’t struggling to get into the pocket. He is doing everything with ease. Flowers looks comfortable out there.

Flowers has 5 games left to gain 2 more sacks which would put him at last years total. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach that goal.

The defensive end is also racking up the tackles. He already has 40 and might be able to reach a new career high if he keeps playing well.

So even though the numbers may not show it, Trey Flowers is having the best season of his career with his ability to dominate opponents.

4. Flowers is a consistent player

One of the great things about Trey Flowers is you know what you are going to get from him. The Patriots know they can count on Flowers to maneuver his way into the backfield and blow plays up before they even start.

When you look at Flowers stats you don’t see a lot of variation. The defensive end will have a couple of tackles a game and will have a few QB hits and then a sack or two.

Flowers has never been completely shut out of a game. When he struggles to get to the quarterback he stops the running game. When he is struggling to stop the run, he is able to get the quarterback. When he can’t do both he is able to break up passes with his athleticism. The guy can do it all.

The Patriots can always rely on Flowers to be there for them.

5. Trey Flowers is entering the prime of his career

If the Patriots re-sign Flowers it isn’t like they are going to have a terrible player by the end of the deal.

Flowers is just entering the prime of his career. The defensive end is only 25 years old. That means if New England signs him to a 5-year deal he would still be a great player.

The move just makes so much sense. The Patriots would be getting a great pass rusher for the best years of his career. What more could you ask for?

Flowers deserves a raise and I think he will get it for the Patriots. If they make the mistake of not signing the defensive end it will haunt them for years to come.

The Patriots need to have a solid defense and if they lose Trey Flowers they will be in big trouble. The defensive end plays a crucial role in the team’s success moving forward.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Trey Flowers shines again in big day for surging Patriots defense

FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 02: Trey Flowers and Adam Butler of the New England Patriots sack Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots beat the Vikings 24-10. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff
December 4, 2018

So what the hell was that in Tennessee, anyway?

Two games out of the bye, the Patriots' Week 10 dud against the Titans is looking more like an outlier - for the defense, anyway. Sunday was about this unit coming up huge at all levels against the Vikings and their myriad offensive weapons. At multiple points in the game, the Patriots' inconsistency and mistakes on offense forced the defense to keep the Vikings from taking control of the game. To start the fourth quarter, the Vikes faced a third-and-5 coming out of a timeout, and an opportunity to drive down the field and tie it up at 17.

Then Trey Flowers happened.

The first play of the fourth quarter was a long-awaited explosion by Flowers, who bounced around blockers on a stunt and burst through to Cousins. The quarterback toppled to the turf just as Flowers was getting to him. He had no chance.

Watch: Trey Flowers sack

It was the kind of tone-setter and game-changer the Patriots defense needed at that point in the game, which was not as competitive as the 17-10 score indicated. The Vikings offense had not gotten much going all afternoon besides one explosive touchdown drive just before halftime, yet still had a chance to make it all even in the fourth. Flowers wasn't going to let that happen.

Flowers was merely one of the anchors of an excellent overall day for the defense up and down the roster. He feels that they're coming together as a unit just at the right time, as the Patriots look to elevate themselves like they usually do in December.

"I think a lot of the guys understand the urgency, just being able to amp up preparation and understand that now it's time for real football," said Flowers. "A lot of guys understand the urgency, coming together and working hard."

The Patriots looked like a well-prepared defense on Sunday, reacting well to what the Vikings offense was showing them and mixing up their own looks. It served to confuse Cousins, who ended up 32-of-44 for just 204 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions - a 70.5 passer rating.

FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 02: Trey Flowers of the New England Patriots reacts in front of Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings during the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots beat the Vikings 24-10. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

Cousins also held on to the ball too long at times, and credit for that is due to the play of the Patriots secondary. Besides his second-quarter touchdown (and an ill-advised confrontation with Bill Belichick), likely All-Pro receiver Adam Thielen was virtually a non-factor. He finished with five catches for 28 yards and the score, despite 10 targets. The Vikings' other big receiving threat, Stefon Diggs, played hurt and grabbed five largely inconsequential catches for 49 yards. Rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson performed admirably in an unusually prominent role, his biggest play coming on Duron Harmon's late interception that he tipped into the air in the end zone.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore sounded like he'd heard all the hullabaloo about the Vikings and their stable of #weapons.

"We were motivated, we knew it wasn't going to be easy," said Gilmore. "We had a good week of practice and we were prepared and we came out and showed it today."

Since allowing 40 points to the Chiefs, the Patriots defense has averaged 18.5 points allowed in their last six games, and that includes the debacle in Nashville. The Patriots have held their opponents to 17 points or less in four of their last five. They haven't allowed a 300-yard passer since Patrick Mahomes in Week 6, or a 100-yard rusher since the Lions' Kerryon Johnson in Week 3.

The Patriots also dominated on third down against the Vikings, which hasn't been an area of consistency for them. Minnesota went just 3-for-12 on the afternoon in those situations. Flowers and the front-seven swarmed the line of scrimmage and short areas of the field, frequently switching things up and making Cousins look un-veteran-like in the process.

Even when the Vikings were able to come up with chunk plays, particularly on their stunning 74-yard touchdown drive that took just 1:37 at the end of the second quarter, the defense didn't waver like it felt they could after a disappointing end to the first half.

"Next-play mentality," Flowers described it. "We're playing in the NFL. So you've got to tip your hat to guys, and understand that they’re going to make some plays. You've just got to come back and be ready to make another play."

Flowers was most certainly ready for that.

On top of his sack to start the fourth quarter, Flowers nearly came up with a huge stop on fourth-and-1. He and Lawrence Guy stood up Latavius Murray at the line to gain, but the officials ruled it a first down on the field. They didn't have enough evidence to overturn the call on Bill Belichick's challenge.

But it didn't make the play by Flowers any less impressive. Had the officials simply ruled in their favor on the field, it would've been yet another big-time play for perhaps the big-time player on the Patriots defense.

In a superb afternoon for this group, Flowers continued to show why he's going to get paid this offseason, whether it's in New England or elsewhere. He just wanted to get back to the line and make plays, and he definitely accomplished that. And like we're used to seeing by now, he did it at a big-time moment in the game.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Upon Further Review: Pats' focus on stopping the run pays dividends

By Mac Cerullo
November 30, 2018

FOXBOROUGH — When the New England Patriots have lost, they've lost ugly. The team's three losses this season have featured breakdowns in all aspects of the game, but among the many issues, stopping the run was one of the big constants.

New England allowed an average of 137.6 rushing yards in its losses, including 159 in Week 3 against the Detroit Lions and 150 against the Tennessee Titans in Week 11. The Patriots can't win if they're constantly getting gashed on the ground, so coming out of the bye, the defense needed to show it could get stops more consistently.

While it wasn't flashy, the Patriots run defense clearly took a big step forward on Sunday.

The Patriots held the New York Jets to only 74 rushing yards, with about a third of those yards coming on Josh McCown scrambles rather than designed runs. There weren't any single outstanding performances powering the effort, the team just played solid, fundamental football and forced McCown to beat them with his arm — something he obviously couldn't do.

New England set the tone on the first drive of the game. After receiving the game's opening kickoff, the Jets handed the ball off to Isaiah Crowell, who ran up the right side and was immediately met by Lawrence Guy for no gain. The next play, Crowell tried carrying it up the middle, and this time it was Patrick Chung waiting to stuff him for a gain of three.

The Jets eventually punted, and on the team's next drive, New York initially struggled on the ground again. Elijah McGuire lost two yards on an outside run to the right after Kyle Van Noy swept across and kept him contained, and McCown scrambled for three on a broken screen play. McGuire eventually picked up eight after a back-breaking holding penalty — eventually leading to New York's first touchdown — but from that point on, the Jets only rushed the ball one other time for the rest of the first half.

Throughout the game, the Patriots were only beaten decisively on one designed rushing play, a 3rd and 1 rush where Jason McCourty got pancaked while trying to contain Crowell, giving the runner a clear lane to the outside for 12 yards and a first down. Other than that, New England had a clear edge to the point where the Jets essentially abandoned the run even though the Patriots didn't start to pull ahead until mid-way through the fourth quarter.

Overall, the Jets only ran the ball 15 times, well down from their average of 24.9 carries per game. Once the Jets became one dimensional, the Patriots defense started to shine in other areas.

The pass rush enjoyed its best game in weeks, getting 23 total quarterback pressures on 51 passing snaps (45.1 percent). Trey Flowers in particular was a monster, terrorizing the Jets line while pressuring McCown eight times all by himself.

The secondary did a good job taking away McCown's first looks, which combined with the pressure led to two sacks and a litany of rushed throws. And during a crucial sequence late in the third quarter, Van Noy got a free rush at McCown twice in a row to bring up fourth down at the end of a long Jets drive. New York had to settle for the game-tying field goal, and the Patriots went on to score 14 unanswered points the rest of the way.

The Jets' offense isn't anything special, but this was a good performance for the Patriots defense. The blueprint for success all along has been to contain the run, pressure the quarterback and avoid big mistakes. If the defense can replicate its performance against future opponents — starting with the Minnesota Vikings this weekend — the Patriots will be in it against any opponent it plays the rest of the way.

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