The New England Patriots saw some major turnover since their loss in Super Bowl 52. One of the biggest changes is the departure of Matt Patricia, who served as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator since 2012, to become the next head coach of the Detroit Lions. Under Patricia’s leadership, New England’s defense helped the team win two Super Bowls and never finished a season worse than 10th in points allowed.
With Patricia now gone, the job of leading the unit will fall on linebackers coach Brian Flores. While not bearing the official coordinator title this season, the 37-year old is the one who will primarily fill the role of calling the plays and overseeing the group alongside head coach Bill Belichick. Flores – like Belichick – will be straight-forward in his approach, at least according to defensive team captain Devin McCourty.
“He’s always straight to the point,” the veteran safety told reporters after the team’s training camp practice on Friday when asked about Flores’ coaching style. “I’d say he’s an aggressive coaching style guy, but I think the thing I loved about him when he was our safety coach – same thing now as D coordinator – he’s going to tell you exactly how it is and how he feels; what he thinks is best for you individually, for the team.”
Flores, of course, comes with plenty of experience working within the Patriots organization. He joined the team straight out of Boston College in 2004 and worked his way up from scouting assistant. In 2012, after filling multiple low-level roles over the years, he was promoted to safeties coach. Four years later, Flores laterally changed positions and became New England’s linebackers coach – and defensive coordinator in the waiting.
Now, he will get his first chance at doing the job even if the training wheels are still on. Nevertheless, Flores’ impact on the unit will already be felt in 2018. According to McCourty’s fellow team captain Dont’a Hightower, for example, the whole group will be faster and more aggressive this season when compared to years past. Almost two months later, McCourty offered a different answer when asked about the changes from Patricia to Flores.
“Not really. I mean, we’re doing the same things,” said McCourty when asked about if he sees the defense becoming a faster one under its new de-facto coordinator. “It’s always going to be different because somebody else is calling it. [Flores is] not going to be the same as Matty P, but our defense is kind of the same, you know what I mean – like we don’t have a whole new defense because Flo’s been in this system for years. It’s a lot of crossover.”
How the defense will ultimately look like under its new leadership remains to be seen. One thing is certain, though: It is a lot different now than it was last season and how it will be on August 9, when the team opens its preseason. And it will look totally different on September 9, when the regular season is kicked off, and also late in the year compared to the start of the season. The unit will always change and continue to evolve.
Whether it evolves into a unit capable of making the stops when need be – unlike the one that played in last year’s Super Bowl – has to be the main concern for Flores and everybody else on the Patriots.