When the New England Patriots acquired linebacker Marquis Flowers from the Cincinnati Bengals in exchange for a seventh round pick, it didn’t really move the needle. Flowers was a special teamer and the Patriots were looking at missing both Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater to start the season with injuries. It made sense.
Over the past two weeks, the Patriots plan for Flowers has started to bloom (I’m so so sorry), with the 6’3, 250 pound linebacker seeing his snaps increase from 8 against the Los Angeles Chargers before the bye week to 19 snaps against the Denver Broncos and 32 snaps against the Oakland Raiders.
And he’s playing well.
Flowers recorded 4 tackles and a forced fumble to end the Raiders drive at the end of the half, setting up a 10-point swing in favor of New England. That play didn’t go unnoticed by the coaching staff and he should be set up for more time moving forward.
But it all started because Flowers was able to contribute on special teams.
“In many cases [our players] opportunity on offense and defense is going to start with what their performance is in the kicking game and being able to get to the game day roster,” head coach Bill Belichick explained about Flowers and Trevor Reilly. “They've been able to take advantage of their opportunities first in the kicking game and, second, defensively. When you do that, then that usually leads to more opportunities.”
Belichick also noted that the Patriots practice strip tackles during the week, with the head coach calling the forced fumble “a great awareness play by Marquis.” The combination of learning during practice, executing in the game, and receiving praise for his awareness means that Flowers just earned more time on the field in Belichick’s mind.
Flowers also made a few other nice plays during the game.
Q4 3-1-NE 40 (5:00) (No Huddle, Shotgun) D.Carr pass short left to J.Olawale to NE 38 for 2 yards (M.Flowers)
While Flowers (#59, right side of the screen) wasn’t able to force the punt on this play, he executed a pretty nice open field tackle against a bigger fullback/tight end/running back hybrid Jamize Olawale. Ideally he would have been able to drive Olawale back and away from the first down marker, but Olawale spun forward to move the chains.
Still, Flowers did a pretty good job changing direction and using his leverage to make the stop. Olawale is a former wide receiver so it wasn’t an easy task.
Q4 2-8-NE 26 (3:20) (Shotgun) D.Carr pass short middle to D.Washington to NE 21 for 5 yards (M.Flowers).
DeAndre Washington is an entirely different player than Olawale, about 30 pounds lighter and much, much faster, and yet Flowers (#59, bottom right side of the screen) did a pretty good job sticking around in coverage.
It’s never an easy task to cover a running back out of the backfield and Flowers seems to be carving out a nice role for him in the New England defense.
Kyle Van Noy is the 100% snap player that can play on the edge and off the line as the strongside linebacker. Elandon Roberts is the pure middle linebacker against the run. Marquis Flowers is an ideal weakside linebacker that can drop into coverage, while also chip in against the run.
If the past couple weeks are any indication, Flowers’ role is growing in the New England defense- and his performance against the Raiders earned him even more playing time.