Sunday’s loss against the visiting Seattle Seahawks was arguably the New England Patriots’ worst defensive outing of the 2016. Not only did the unit surrender its most points of the year – 31 – it also failed to consistently perform on all three levels of play; against both the pass and the rush.
However, not all was bad. One of the few bright spots (if not the only one) was second-year defensive end Trey Flowers. Two weeks after registering his first two career sacks, the 23-year old former fourth round draft pick added two more, while playing a position-high 61 snaps.
Let’s take a look at the film to analyze the two sacks.
1-10-SEA 21 (5:46) (Shotgun) R.Wilson sacked at SEA 14 for -7 yards (T.Flowers).
Flowers’ first sack of the day came on the first play of the Seahawks’ second offensive possession. The defense aligned in a nickel package with four linemen and two linebackers on the field. Flowers (#98), as he did on the majority of his snaps, aligned on the defensive right side of the formation:
Playing a wide 9-technique, Flowers went one-on-one against rookie offensive tackle George Fant (#74). After the snap, Flowers kept his base low forcing the taller lineman to block down:
This made it easier for the defender to place his left hand on Fant’s chest and keep him at a manageable distance. Consequently, he had enough space to operate with his right arm to knock down the tackle’s attempt at engaging near Flowers’ right shoulder area. Throughout this motion, the second-year edge defender kept his feet working to move around his opponent and get to the quarterback:
To his credit, Fant did not give up easily as he was able to hold onto Flowers’ left arm. However, with the momentum on his side, Flowers could not be pulled back from reaching around quarterback Russell Wilson (#3), and taking the passer down for a loss of seven yards.
2-5-NE 5 (3:56) (Shotgun) R.Wilson sacked at NE 13 for -8 yards (T.Flowers).
In the third quarter, facing a 2nd and goal from the 5-yard line, Flowers met Wilson again in the backfield. The Patriots once again had their nickel package on the field, but this time the team aligned its three down linemen closer together, with Dont’a Hightower (#54) playing on the line of scrimmage next to Flowers:
While he played outside the offensive tackle on his first sack, Flowers played a 4i-technique aligning over George Fant’s inside shoulder. However, with both Flowers and Hightower putting pressure on the left side of Seattle’s offensive line, Fant kicked to the outside. This left Flowers in a one-on-one matchup with left guard Mark Glowinski (#63):
Despite Flowers once again timing the snap very well, Glowinski was able to close the B-gap quickly by pushing his opponent to the outside and towards the left tackle. However, as has been the case on his first sack, Flowers played this down extremely well by doing two things: 1) Even though he was turned around, he kept his feet working. 2) He went low to maneuver through the blocking attempt of a bigger opponent (Glowinksi is 6’4, Flowers is 6’2).
Flowers lowered his left shoulder to fight through Glowinksi’s blocking attempt, showing excellent strength in the process of moving the guard back. Simultaneously, he used his right arm to push off Fant to widen the gap even further. With the secondary covering well and the pocket closing quickly, Wilson had nowhere to throw or run and was taken down by Flowers a second time.
Overall, the second-year defender played a solid game against Seattle – no matter if he was used as an left, right or interior rusher. Flowers set the edge well, played with a good motor against both the pass and the run and displayed some sound technique to get off blockers (like this play perfectly illustrates). While some shortcomings were also on display, most notably a lack of strength at the point of attack, his performance was certainly encouraging.
The Patriots struggle to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks and get production from the defensive end position. If Flowers, who now leads the team with 4.0 sacks, can build upon his last two games and grow as an edge defender, New England might have found at least a partial solution to one of its major defensive problems.