FOXBORO, Mass. — Young New England Patriots pass rushers have a few extra weeks to prove they deserve a roster spot and a role after Rob Ninkovich’s triceps injury.
Trey Flowers, a 2015 fourth-round pick who played just one game last season before being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, has been standing out in practice at the right time.
During full-contact team drills, Flowers is getting into the backfield more than any other Patriots pass rusher. He primarily rushes from the edge, but he’s added interior pressure to his arsenal.
“He didn?t play a lot inside in college,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said last week. “I think there was one game against LSU when he was in there, but for the most part he was on the edge, so that?s an adjustment that he?s making. He?s definitely getting better at it. He has quickness and, again, the play-strength, and I would say the mentality to play in there.
“It?s just going to come down to experience and getting comfortable. It?s a little bit different. You?re not working against as long of a guy usually at guard, and maybe not as athletic a guy as the ones that play tackle, but there is less space. … So, it?s a little bit different but he?s making progress on it.”
The Patriots likely will use three or four edge defenders on the line of scrimmage on third down this season since they don’t have an interior pass rushing specialist, like Dominique Easley, on their roster anymore.
Flowers also could be used on early downs because of his strong run defense.
“That was a strength of his at Arkansas, and for not a tall guy, he has long arms, he has some length as a player even though his stature is not exceptionally long, but he has long arms and he plays the run well,” Belichick said. “He?s a tough kid. All of those guys — Rob, Jabaal (Sheard), Chris (Long), Shea (McClellin), Geneo (Grissom), Rufus (Johnson) — they?re all pretty stout out there, got good playing strength, good length. So, that end position in the running game, so far, I?d say that hasn?t been the major problem for us.”
Flowers hasn’t been able to fully show his ability in the running game or passing game in training camp because defenders can’t tackle or sack the quarterback. So, Flowers is itching to get on the field in the Patriots’ preseason opener Thursday against the New Orleans Saints.
“It’s real life. Some of those sacks that you think that you probably had when you pulled up or something, you can actually go in and be engaged and take that extra two more steps to judge a game, judge your real quickness to the ball,” Flowers said. “It’s definitely important.”
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