Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Chris Long admires Trey Flowers’ approach

Credit: Nancy Lane | Trey Flowers

By Adam Kurkjian

August 29, 2016

FOXBORO — It sounded more like how a young player describes playing with a veteran, not the other way around.

But there was defensive end Chris Long, heading into his ninth year in the league, raving about second-year defensive lineman Trey Flowers and his general approach with the Patriots.

“Trey is a young guy, but he’s a really smart football player,” Long said. “He can do a lot of different things, and his versatility serves him well. He’s a hard worker. As far as being a pro, I think he understands how to be a pro early. It serves him well, and it’s really been fun to watch him work and go about his business as a professional.”

The way Long speaks of Flowers’ professionalism speaks volumes, especially since the veteran’s locker is right next to one of the most respected players on the team, Rob Ninkovich. In other words, Long knows what he’s talking about when it comes to that sort of thing.

Told of Long’s compliment, Flowers gave a humble response.

“I mean, I guess you could say that, but I’m only two years into it,” Flowers said. “I’ve still got a lot to learn as far as being a pro and taking care of things. When you’ve got guys around that have been in the game so long, you kind of observe and look how they handle their business and … emulate them and take some game from them.”

And while Flowers is right about how he still has a lot to learn, on the field this preseason, it’s clear he’s picked up quite a bit.

Regardless of where he has lined up, at both defensive end and tackle, he’s found ways to make plays. From a pure production standpoint, he’s been as consistently impressive as any lineman on a unit that has been one of the strengths of the team.

Take, for example, the preseason opener against the Saints. Although it was not against New Orleans’ first-team offensive line, Flowers lined up on the outside shoulder of the left guard, easily beat him with a swim move, sacked Luke McCown, forced a fumble then scooped the ball and rumbled 17 yards for a touchdown.

By the Bears game the next week, he was getting reps with the starters at both end and tackle and continued to make an impact. Not only has his quickness been too much for opposing guards to handle, but his bull rush against tackles has been disruptive. He’s shown an array of moves to disengage from blocks and worked well in tandem with players like Anthony Johnson to create pressure on stunts, as evidenced in a sack Friday night in the 19-17 win against the Panthers.

Playing for a coach like Bill Belichick who values versatility, it’s one thing to be able hold down multiple roles. It’s another, as Flowers has shown this preseason, to do them well.

“That’s something you’ve got to do in this defense,” said Flowers, who also moved around along the line in his time at Arkansas. “At one position, you’ve got to be very good at that position, but the more you can do, the more valuable you are. So just being able to transition, inside, outside, I think I can hang my hat on that.”

And the Pats will need to hang their hat on players like Flowers maintaining this type of play once the regular season starts. With defensive end Jabaal Sheard sidelined with a sprained MCL and Ninkovich out with a torn triceps muscle, the depth along the edge has been tested so far.
But with the emergence of players like Flowers and Long, who has also been strong this preseason, the drop-off has been virtually unnoticeable.

That aspect, staying healthy, is not lost on Flowers, especially with the regular season starting in less than two weeks. A year ago, the fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft showed flashes of his talent in the preseason, but a shoulder injury kept him off the field for most of his rookie year, and he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 1.

At this point, though, that doesn’t seem to be an issue, and in Flowers’ eyes, his development has taken a step forward because of it.

“Just staying on the field, you get more experience,” Flowers said. “As far as playing run blocks, playing different styles of offensive linemen and as far as how they block in pass protection (has helped). Just getting that feel of week in, week out, you’re going to have a switch up of different types of schemes as far as the different offense. Just being able to transition from one week to another is definitely something I’ve taken advantage of.”

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