Thursday, January 03, 2019

Patriots teammates see Trey Flowers’ true value

New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers reacts after sacking New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

By Mark Daniels
January 2, 2019

FOXBORO — You won’t hear Trey Flowers toot his own horn. You won’t hear many outside of Gillette Stadium talk about the 25-year-old, strong-as-an-ox defensive lineman, either. Flowers is as soft-spoken as he is dominant, but for a guy who’s led the Patriots in sacks for each of the last three seasons, he lacks public recognition.

Inside the Patriots locker room, you have plenty of teammates willing to do the talking for him.

This season, Flowers led the Patriots in sacks (7.5), quarterback hits (20), tackles for loss (nine) and forced fumbles (three). His 20 quarterback hits were more than Khalil Mack (18), Chandler Jones (18), Jerry Hughes (18) and Cameron Wake (17). Flowers’ three forced fumbles is tied for 10th in the NFL.

In his fourth season, Flowers is still without a Pro Bowl, but like his sack numbers, it’s hard to judge this player just on paper. Just ask his teammates.

“Trey Flowers, he’s one of the best in the NFL,” Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “He should be first-team All-Pro. Should be a Pro Bowler. We know how that goes. When you see him, we know how important he is and how good he is. He’s going to get paid a lot of money for it.”

That’s true. Flowers is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and is likely to earn somewhere between $12 million and $14 million per season. At that point, he’ll get some acknowledgment in the form of dollar signs, but for now, he’s happy to float under the radar.

When the regular season ended, it marked another banner year for the Patriots’ 2015 fourth-round pick. During the Patriots’ win over the New York Jets on Sunday, Flowers set a new career-high in sacks (7.5), beating his previous high of seven sacks in 2016. He laughed when he was told about the new personal best. Flowers has never been about numbers or praise.

“Man, it is what it is when it comes to recognition,” Flowers said. “When everybody thinks of me, they’re going to find a flaw. They’re going to find something wrong. It is what it is with that. As long as I’m doing what I can to have my team successful, that’s what is [important].”

Stats don’t tell Flowers’ story but they can paint a picture. Along with leading the Patriots in sacks each of the last three seasons, Flowers is hitting opposing quarterbacks at an alarming rate. He had 25 quarterback hits last year and 20 this year.

Prior to Flowers’ stint with the Patriots, the last New England players to have 20 or more quarterback hit were Chandler Jones (23 in 2013), Andre Carter (23, 2011) and Rosevelt Colvin (27, 2006). None of those players did it in back-to-back seasons. Unlike Jones, Carter and Colvin, Flowers also plays on the inside at defensive tackle.

“He steps up to the challenge,” Patriots defensive tackle Adam Butler said. “He’s in there at 3-tech [defensive tackle] like he’s Malcom [Brown] and Lawrence Guy. He’s taking on double teams, holding up guards, the whole nine yards. He’s effective and makes plays off of it.”

“The man’s powerful,” safety Patrick Chung said. “Powerful, smart, works hard. I mean, stats are stats. They mean something but they kind of don’t. As long as you’re consistent and he’s one of our most consistent players. And he does it at a high level. Yeah, he’s definitely valuable to us.”

“That’s why when people talk about stats, you can argue [Flowers],” Van Noy said. “It’s frustrating because he should be getting a lot of national exposure but he always plays on the Patriots defense.”

The value was seen last weekend against the Jets. Flowers finished with a sack, forced fumble and a tackle for loss. Over the final six games of the regular season, he had five sacks, two forced fumbles and 13 quarterback hits.

Whether he’s filling up the box score or not, Flowers is helping the Patriots win. That’s all that matters to him.

“Part of my game is continue to get better and winning,” Flowers said. “Individual statistics and things, that ain’t never been a high thing of mine. I always got them but it’s not what I did it for. I did it to win the game, put my team in position to win.”

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