The New England Patriots’ preseason finale didn’t just mark the final time players could prove they should have a spot on the roster, it also was the last chance for rookies to show they deserve a role to begin the season.
Fourth-round draft pick Trey Flowers might have leapfrogged his fellow rookie defensive end, third-round pick Geneo Grissom, with an impressive pass-rushing performance against the New York Giants. Flowers was consistently in the backfield despite limited snaps.
Check out the Patriots’ pass-defense charting stats from their final preseason game, based on this week’s film review:
Trey Flowers: three QB hits, three hurries
Rufus Johnson: two QB hits, two hurries
Eric Martin: four hurries
Geneo Grissom: three hurries
Zach Moore: one QB hit, one hurry
Casey Walker: two hurries
Logan Ryan: sack
Malcom Brown: one hurry
James Morris: one hurry
— The Giants’ offensive line could not stop Flowers, who used his power and long frame to pressure quarterback Ryan Nassib. Flowers is only 6-foot-2, so he uses his low center of gravity to his advantage on bull rushes. He has long 34 1/4-inch arms to stack and shed offensive linemen, as well, however, which is rare for a player his height. The Patriots have three talented veteran edge rushers ahead of Flowers on the depth chart in Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard, but they need to find Flowers a consistent role to get after the passer, based on his impressive preseason.
— Martin and Johnson each made a strong case for roster spots. Unfortunately, with Jones, Ninkovich, Sheard, Flowers and Grissom ahead of them on the depth chart, there isn’t really an extra spot for one pass rusher, let alone two. Johnson impressed in all three preseason games in which he played, while Martin was injured for most of the summer. If one earned a spot on the roster, it was Johnson, though the Patriots are more likely to try to slip both onto the practice squad.
Daxton Swanson: 4-7, 81 yards
Tavon Wilson: 2-4, 34 yards, pass breakup
Robert McClain: 4-4, 31 yards
Logan Ryan: 2-7, 27 yards, pass breakup
Xzavier Dickson: 2-2, 7 yards
Darius Fleming: 1-3, 7 yards
James Morris: 1-1, 6 yards
Nate Ebner: 0-2
Jordan Richards: 0-1
Trey Flowers: pass breakup
— Swanson was picked on by Nassib after a solid third preseason game.
— Ryan outplayed fellow cornerbacks McClain and Swanson. This is the type of performance Ryan needed to end his up-and-down summer.
— McClain also was charged with two penalties, defensive holding and a personal foul. I still think he will make the 53-man roster, but the Patriots could look for a cornerback on the waiver wire after initial cuts.
Cameron Fleming: one QB hit, seven hurries
Chris Martin: three sacks, two QB hits, two hurries
LeGarrette Blount: three hurries
Ryan Groy: three hurries
Shaq Mason: one QB hit, one hurry
Caplin Hauptmann: one sack
Tre? Jackson: one hurry
— Fleming had an opportunity to potentially pass Marcus Cannon as the Patriots’ top backup tackle going into the 2015 season, but if anything, his preseason performance raised some questions about his roster status. He was a 2014 fourth-round pick, so he should be safe, but Fleming had a rough summer.
— Blount flashed his hands with four catches for 54 yards, but he might not have done enough in pass protection to warrant a bigger role on third down this year.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images