Thursday, September 13, 2018

Why Patriots’ Trey Flowers Is More Valuable Than Your Typical Pass Rusher

By Doug Kyed
September 13, 2018

FOXBORO, Mass. — Calling New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers a pass rusher is only telling half the story.

Flowers is not only dominant at disrupting the passer, he’s also one of the most complete edge defenders in the NFL.

Consider this: The Patriots allowed just 3.27 yards per rushing attempt while Flowers was on the field in their Week 1 win over the Houston Texans. They let up 5.08 yards per rushing attempt when he was off the field.
You might shrug that off as a small sample size, but Flowers wasn’t on the field when the Texans had their most successful rushing attempt of the game, a 31-yarder by starting running back Lamar Miller.

Houston took advantage of Flowers getting a breather by running at his replacement, first-year player Keionta Davis, who was overpowered by Texans tight end Ryan Griffin. Needless to say, that would not have happened with Flowers. Not with all of the work he’s put into being a stout edge-setter.

“You’ve definitely got to have strength, but overall it’s just the technique and fundamentals,” Flowers said Wednesday. “You talk about basic 1-on-1 football, leverage wins, so you’ve got to have leverage, you’ve got to be able to use your strength to an advantage as far as getting separation, continue to get penetration, continue to drive your feet, all of those fundamentals that you work on. You’ve got to work on them with a purpose so you can build on them when it comes in a game, it’s just second nature.”

And when Flowers says “technique and fundamentals,” he’s talking about “leverage, hand placement, pad level, strike and knockback.”

Setting the edge as a defensive end is not easy. Most of the time, a defensive end is going up against a 6-foot-6, 300-plus-pound offensive tackle. Flowers is listed at 6-foot-2, 265 pounds. It’s easy to get knocked back by a blocker whose sole purpose is to drive you forward or away from the play. So, how does Flowers combat that?

“You just have to understand you have to have precision in your technique and precision in your fundamentals,” Flowers said. “You practice that, you practice that way, you focus on it every snap, every rep. You have to do extra just to create a habit so when you go out there, it’s just a habit that you have as far as being precise with your hand placement, being precise with your leverage, your attack, your get-off, your explosion, things like that.”

Practice makes perfect. That’s why Flowers will stay after summer training camp practices to continue working on his craft. He wants to make having that perfect technique second nature. And he has.

“Trey’s a good football player,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s done a lot of different things for us and he’s a well-rounded player. He can play on all three downs. He’s played outside, played inside. He’s able to play heavy on a blocker. He’s able to play on the edge of a blocker. He makes plays on the backside. He makes plays at the point of attack. He’s got a good skill set. He plays hard. He’s a smart player. He’s instinctive. He’s productive. I’m glad we have him.”

Flowers is a very disruptive pass rusher. He finished Sunday’s game with 1.5 sacks and seven total pressures. He currently ranks second among 4-3 defensive ends in Pro Football Focus’ pass-rush productivity metric. He also ranks second in PFF’s run stop percentage metric.

Flowers will be a free agent after the season, and he’ll likely receive a ton of money after he hits the open market. Teams will pay for his pass-rush prowess. But his ability to set the edge against the run is just as valuable.

“You’ve definitely got to stop the run,” Flowers said. “If you can’t stop the run, then I don’t see you getting too many opportunities to pass rush. So, first things first is stopping the run, so it’s just one of those things that you gotta earn the job, earn the right to rush the passer.”

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