FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots’ defense is under new management this season.
With longtime defensive coordinator Matt Patricia leaving this spring to take over as head coach of the Detroit Lions, linebackers coach Brian Flores now is the man in charge of defensive play-calling for the Patriots, though he’s doing so without an official coordinator title.
Speaking in a news conference Monday afternoon, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praised Flores, who has been with the team in various roles since 2004.
“I think Brian and our defensive staff has done a good job teaching the players and installing our system,” Belichick said. “We haven’t done much game-planning to this point, but we’ll see how that goes as we get into the real games.”
Teams are careful not to reveal too much during the preseason, but the defense Flores has deployed this summer looks slightly different from Patricia’s preferred scheme.
The Patriots have used a four-man front on most plays, for example, rather than a five-man front with a linebacker on the edge. Flores also dialed up more than a dozen blitzes against the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday, energizing a pass rush that racked up eight sacks in New England’s 37-20 win.
It’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions about Flores’ defensive style, though.
“Again, we’re not game-planning,” Belichick said. “We’re working on things that we need to work on. That’s what we always do in preseason. That’s what we’ve done this year, it’s what we’ve done in the past, that’s what we’ll do as long as I’m here. That’s the way it’s always been, and that’s the way it’s always going to be, because I believe that’s we need to do to work on the things we need to work on.”
Asked about the flow of communication between Flores and the on-field play-callers during the first two preseason games, Belichick responded:
“Each game is another opportunity for us to work on that. Whatever opportunities we get in the game based on the situations and the other team’s substitutions and so forth is something that the coaching staff on all three sides of the ball — offense, defense, special teams and the head coach communication to those units and so forth — those are things that the coaching staff needs to fine-tune and smooth out and make sure that we do a good job on so the players can do a good job with it. It’s all interconnected.”
The Patriots have two preseason games remaining — Friday at the Carolina Panthers and next Friday at the New York Giants — before they open the regular season Sept. 9 against the Houston Texans.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images