FOXBORO, Mass. — Long after Tuesday’s New England Patriots practice ended, a small cluster of players remained on the field, working on pass-rush moves while their teammates wrapped up their media obligations.
The group initially consisted of close to 10 players before dwindling to just three defensive ends: 2017 draft picks Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise and their instructor, 2016 breakout star Trey Flowers. Flowers could be seen teaching proper technique to the two rookies, aiding them in their transition to the NFL.
“Just the game,” Flowers said when asked what lessons he was imparting. “Different techniques and understanding little pass-rush moves and things.”
It wasn’t long ago that Flowers was in Rivers’ and Wise’s shoes. He joined the Patriots as a fourth-round draft pick in 2015 and missed nearly his entire rookie season with an injury. Not until late last season did the 23-year-old develop into a legitimate star, culminating in his dominant performance in Super Bowl LI.
Flowers led the team with seven sacks during the regular season, then added another 2 1/2 in New England’s historic comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons. He’s one of the most important players on the Patriots’ defense and a source of information and guidance to some of the team’s less experienced defenders.
“I wouldn’t quite say (I’m) seasoned — I’m still learning,” Flowers said. “But if the young guys ask me a question about something that I have a better understanding of and I can help them out, I’m there for them to help them out.”
Flowers headlines a defensive end group that features veteran Rob Ninkovich, newcomer Kony Ealy (who missed Tuesday’s practice), fellow 2015 draftee Geneo Grissom and, now, Rivers and Wise. He’s easily the most talented player in that group, but he rejected the “leader” label.
“A lot of guys can be a leader,” he said. “I’m just one of the guys that works hard, and if I can help out a little bit here and there, I can help out. But a lot of guys in that group are definitely leaders. I’m just one of the guys that maybe has been in the scheme a little bit longer. So if they have questions, they know I can help them out.”
Assisting the younger guys also has helped Flowers keep himself locked in throughout OTAs and minicamp, where contact is not allowed and technique is of paramount importance.
“Anytime you’re teaching technique, it makes you kind of focus in on it and emphasize that technique,” Flowers said. “You may be working on teaching him footwork or something, and it just makes sure you focus on it and pay attention to the details.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images