While the New England Patriots defense has had its fair share of issues so far this season, some players still stood out — at times at least. Stephon Gilmore is playing like one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks this season, Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy have made multiple big plays the last eight games, and Lawrence Guy has become a key cog in New England’s defensive machinery. One player, however, has arguably outperformed them all.
Fourth-year man Trey Flowers is taking the next step in his already impressive career development this season and he is now one of the NFL’s dominant forces on the defensive edge. What makes the 25-year old so good, is his sound performance against both the run and the pass. Rarely leaving the field, the former fourth-round draft pick has produced no matter the situation or alignment the coaching staff put him in.
Through eight weeks, he has registered 2.0 sacks, six quarterback hits and 11 hurries, and also made 20 tackles against the run with a team-high five of which resulting in stops. As a result of his stellar play in both defensive phases, it is no surprise to see Flowers mentioned among the best players the league has to offer at his position. In fact, he is the first name that comes up when asking advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus.
With an overall grade of 90.8 — consisting of an NFL-best 90.1 run defense grade and a 10th best 79.3 pass rushing performance — Flowers comes up on top in the latest defensive edge rankings. And while Pro Football Focus is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to analyzing and evaluating play, it is still nice to see the Patriots defender get some national recognition for his 2018 campaign so far. And there is still room for improvement, it seems.
After all, Flowers’ pressure statistics would look even better if opposing passers did not get the football out as quickly as they did: overall, he has beaten the blocker lined up across from him 18 times without recording a pressure, the second-highest total in the league. If Flowers can trend just a bit towards the NFL’s mean, he should improve his pass rushing grade and more importantly become even more of an impact-player for the Patriots defense.
No matter what you think of PFF and its grading system it is clear that New England has a star player on the defensive edge, one that will likely command top dollar if he reaches the open market next offseason. The Patriots would be smart to try to prevent this from happening. Of course, it always takes two to tango and at this rate Flowers’ potential wish for immediate security and loyalty to the club would likely be his main motivation to enter the negotiating table.
One thing seems certain, though: Flowers will get paid one way or another.