After his breakout 2016 campaign, we expected Trey Flowers to be one of the New England Patriots’ top defensive players this season. We didn’t expect the young defensive end to be this much of a workhorse, though.
Flowers hardly has left the field through the first five weeks of the 2017 NFL season, playing 97.6 percent of New England’s defensive snaps. He’s played at least 95 percent in all five games and every single snap in two of them.
How much of a change is this from last season? Consider this: Flowers already has played a total of 331 defensive snaps, third-most on the Patriots behind linebacker Kyle Van Noy and safety Devin McCourty. He did not reach that number until Week 11 last year.
According to Pro Football Focus, Arizona Cardinals edge rusher (and ex-Patriot) Chandler Jones is the only defensive lineman who has seen more action than Flowers this season. Jones has played 334 defensive snaps, while Flowers and the New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul both have played 331.
The Patriots’ lack of proven depth at defensive end surely has contributed to Flowers’ drastic uptick in playing time. But there’s also another, simpler reason for it: He’s earned it.
“Trey works hard,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday in a conference call. “He’s given us a lot of quality snaps. He’s been on the field quite a bit, but he’s earned that playing time. We’ll see how it goes going forward, but he’s got good versatility for us. There’s a number of different things that he can do well. He works very hard to perform well. He trains hard.
“But some of that is a function of other players on the team and their roles, what defense we’re in, the type of team we’re playing against, how much nickel, how much base and so forth. So we’ll just have to see how all that goes on a week-to-week basis, but he’s done a good job for us. I’m glad we’ve had him out there.”
Flowers leads the Patriots with 3 1/2 sacks this season and ranks second on the team in quarterback hits with nine. He’s also forced one fumble. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has taken full advantage of the 24-year-old’s versatility, lining him up both on the edge and inside and even dropping him back into coverage on a few select snaps.
“I don’t think he was asked to do a lot of that at Arkansas,” Belichick said, “but we’ve asked him to do some of those things in terms of coverage, playing inside, playing in a 3-technique. He did a little bit of that in college, but not a lot — probably more since he’s been here. He’s done a good job of applying himself in those situations and being a good contributor for us there.”
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