Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was rather subdued for the first few minutes of his conference call with New England reporters.
But as soon as Trey Flowers’ name was mentioned, he perked right up.
Vrabel, like many coaches both on the Patriots’ staff and around the NFL, absolutely adores Flowers as a player. He explained Wednesday how the defensive end knocked his socks off when Vrabel, then an assistant with the Houston Texans, worked him out ahead of the 2015 NFL Draft.
“Oh, man, I loved Trey even when I went to work him out at Arkansas,” Vrabel said. “I knew when I went over there that this was a guy that Bill (Belichick) would target.”
He was right. Belichick drafted Flowers in the fourth round that year, and after losing most of his rookie season to injury, he became the Patriots’ No. 1 pass rusher. Flowers led New England in sacks and quarterback hits in 2016 and 2017 and enters Week 10 as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded edge defender.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get him when I was in Houston,” said Vrabel, the former Patriots linebacker who took over the Titans this past offseason. “I loved his ability and really enjoyed the workout that I had with him and just loved the player then. And just to watch him progress and develop as a pro, he’s just a really good player. He’s a very sound player. His technique, his hands, he uses his length very well, he can bend.
“I could go on and on. I’ve liked him for a lot of years since I went and saw him at Arkansas, and it’s no surprise that Bill and that organization liked him, as well.”
Vrabel is the latest in a long line of coaches to praise Flowers this season. Here’s a sampling of some of the other compliments he’s received:
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy:
“He’s not the ‘big-name guy,’ but he’s the big-name guy among the coaching world. So we know who he is and what he can do, and we respect him and know he’s a hell of a player.
Patriots de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores:
“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who works harder than Trey. On the field, in the weight room, in the training room, really across the board, this guy works incredibly hard. We call him The Quiet Storm. You don’t hear much from him, but he’s been a warrior for us. He’s played lights-out for us really since he’s gotten here. Everyone in the building respects him. He leads by example. Again, he doesn’t say much, but he works extremely hard. He works at his technique, he works at his craft every day and he makes a lot of plays for us. He’s a joy to coach and a joy to be around.”
Patriots defensive line coach Brendan Daly:
“Trey is one of the most hard-working and consistent players I’ve ever been around There’s very few times where you’re going to turn on a game or you’re watching the game — or practice, for that matter — and you’re looking at it going, ‘What happened? What is he doing?’ Very rarely is he going to be in a bad situation. There’s a lot to be said for that, too.”
“He almost always makes the right decision … whether he’s outside or inside or on the right side or on the left side or whether we’re in a four-man line, a five-man line, a three-man line. He just kind of has a good feel for that spacing and kind of how the battle with the guy that he’s working against is going, whether he’s got the upper hand on the initial part of the play or whether it’s even or whatever he has to do, and he kind of reacts accordingly. He’s a very instinctive guy, has a lot of versatility, really can play anywhere across the line. He’s played every spot for us. He’s played on the center, he’s played on the guard, he’s played on the tackle, he’s played out there on the tight end, he’s played on his feet, he’s played down. He’s played everywhere but off the ball.”
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images
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