FOXBORO, Mass. — Look up Brian Flores’ name on the New England Patriots’ website or in the media guide, and you’ll see “linebackers coach.” But from the way players are talking, it certainly sounds like Flores has taken over the reins from Matt Patricia as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator.
And so far, Flores’ unofficial promotion sounds like a good thing for the Patriots’ defense after Patricia left for greener pastures as the Detroit Lions’ head coach.
“It’s a little different,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said Thursday. “Coach is definitely different. I think guys are learning a lot better, a lot easier. A lot of young guys are stepping up and able to pick up for some of the older guys. It definitely works in our favor.”
Hightower mentioned rookie linebacker Christian Sam as one player who’s picking things up quickly this offseason.
“Maybe it’s just the way that he teaches it,” Hightower said about Flores. “The way that the guys kind of absorb it a little bit different. We meet a little different, talk about things a little different. It’s just small quirky things that you can’t necessarily put a finger on, but it’s obvious whenever you can kind of have first-year guys come in or even guys who maybe got signed that can pick things up.
“You can definitely tell there’s a difference somewhere along the line. It helps everybody else on the field when everybody knows what they’re doing. You can play faster and do different things. Whatever he’s doing is working.”
The Patriots’ defense had some communication issues early last season that were instrumental in the team starting out 2-2 with losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers. Perhaps Flores’ approach comes with simplification.
It sounds like the Patriots might switch up the scheme a little bit this year, as well.
“Yeah, it’s a different approach, but it’s still defense,” defensive end Trey Flowers said. “We’re running — I’m not gonna say the same things, but just a different attack style. Just change up a little bit, but it’s still the same principles as far as how physical we want to be and how we want to stop the run and set the edge.”
Flores has worked closely with many members of the Patriots’ defense, since he’s coached safeties and linebackers. That experience could be easing the adjustment from Matty P to Flo.
“I’ve been able to be around Flo for six years now,” safety Duron Harmon said. “It allows me to kind of know the type of person he is, how he’s going to push us. He coached me for my first three years. So, I know how he’s going to drive the team, and I appreciate it. I like his intensity. I love his attitude. And I just know it’s going to make me be a better football player. …
“It’s a familiarity we have with him. We understand what he’s trying to do, understand what he’s trying to get out of us. And we appreciate it and try to not only work with him but let him make sure that we improve and push us to levels we haven’t been to yet.”
Flowers never had Flores as a position coach, but the defensive end still knows what to expect out of the former Boston College linebacker who has been on the Patriots’ staff in multiple capacities since 2004.
“He’s a great coach,” Flowers said. “He’s been here a long time. Came up through the ranks as far as coaching different positions and things like that. He’s a guy that you can depend on and put us in the best position to win.”
Flores interviewed this winter for the Arizona Cardinals’ head coaching vacancy that ultimately was filled by former Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. If Flores officially was promoted to defensive coordinator, there’s a higher chance he would have been plucked away this offseason to fill another head coaching void. So, it might be a strategic measure to still list him as a linebackers coach despite greater responsibilities.
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