Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Trey Flowers buying in will lead to him cashing in

FOXBORO, MA. – DECEMBER 2: Trey Flowers of the New England Patriots reacts during the fourth quarter of the game at Gillette Stadium on December 2, 2018 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

January 1, 2019

Fearful talent scouts in every sport embrace reasons not to recruit athletes, too often overlooking why a player might overcome not perfectly fitting a prototype to eventually reach stardom.

Take the case of defensive end Robert Lee Flowers III, better known as Trey. The Patriots drafted him in 2015 in the fourth round out of Arkansas and have helped him develop into a player on the brink of making big, big money.

Some cowardly scouts no doubt steered away from him after labeling him a tweener. In basketball such scouts agonize over the same questions: “Is he a power forward or a small forward?” “Who’s he going to guard?” “Is he quick enough to guard a point, long enough to guard a wing?”

Of defensive linemen they ask, “Would you play him on the inside or the outside? He’s not big enough to play inside and I’m not sure he’s fast enough to play outside.”

They do so not without reason because in the case of high school athletes seeking college scholarships and college athletes under the microscope of professional scouts, the tweeners far outweigh those who can blend the qualities of multiple positions and play their sport well. Think: Charles Barkley. Also, think: Flowers.

The likely questions asked of Flowers, which enabled the Patriots to score big in the fourth round: “Is he long enough and athletic enough to fly off the edge? His frame doesn’t allow for enough growth to project him as a D-tackle, so where does he play?”

This question should always trump every other: “Is he a good football player driven to constantly improve who will figure out a way to get it done?”

Flowers clearly is that so the answers to the other questions don’t really matter. Then again, they do matter because he checks every box. Among the Patriots’ defensive ends, he’s the best at rushing the passer (7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles), easily the best at stopping the run and plays inside when coach Bill Belichick wants an extra pass rusher on the field.

The Patriots won’t be shaky signing the impending free agent to a big contract because they won’t have to cross their fingers while gripping the pen. Retaining him is much more of a sure thing than bringing in someone from another organization and hoping he fits.

Flowers will be in great demand, but if he doesn’t sign with the Patriots, it won’t be because the man in charge doesn’t try really hard to keep him.

“Yeah, Trey’s given us great play all year,” Belichick said in the wake of Sunday’s 38-3 pummeling of the Jets. “He’s a tough matchup guy. He played left end and he also played inside today, as he does most games. He can match up on the tackles. He can match up on the guards and centers and that gives us some flexibility with some other players as well.”

Once the coach started praising Flowers, he was in no hurry to stop.

“He’s had a tremendous year for us and he always does a tremendous job,” Belichick said. “Nobody works harder than Trey does. His toughness, his durability, his consistency, and his ability to play the running game, and play it in different positions, you don’t see a lot of guys on the defensive line (do that), but he’s done it well."

Flowers sets a great example for anyone in the locker room who might be tempted to grow discouraged over a lack of snaps.

“From my rookie year not getting on the field to my second year just trying to find my way, starting off on the inside, that was my only way I was getting on the field, so I had to get good at it,” Flowers said. “No matter where I am on the field, I just want to continue to get better.”

Funny how players who buy in tend to be the ones who get to cash in.

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