The New England Patriots currently have 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the offseason, we take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with a member of New England’s linebacker corps.
Name: Marquis Flowers
Jersey number: 59
Opening day age: 26
Size: 6’3, 245 lbs.
2017 review: After spending his first three years in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, Marquis Flowers was traded to the Patriots in late August 2017. New England invested a seventh-round draft pick to acquire the Bengals’ core special teamer, and immediately used him in the kicking game: Flowers played a mere 30 defensive snaps over the first half of the regular season, but he was used on 125 snaps on special teams.
While Flowers continued to see regular action on punt and kickoff units – as a gunner, rusher, and front-line blocker – after the Patriots’ week nine bye, his defensive role grew as well. With fellow linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, and Harvey Langi all on injured reserve by that point, the Arizona product moved up the depth chart and became a third rotational option next to de-facto starters Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts.
In that role, Flowers played 43.8% of New England’s defensive snaps (331 of 755) over the final eight games of the regular season and through the team’s three playoff contests – all while still seeing regular time on special teams as well. Playing primarily in the passing game, the former sixth-round draft pick finished the season with a respectable stat-line: Flowers registered 4.5 sacks, two more quarterback pressures, and a forced fumble.
He was also solid albeit unspectacular in coverage: targeted a total of 16 times, Flowers gave up 11 receptions for 115 yards and one touchdown, and also registered a pass breakup. Even though he – unsurprisingly and unexpectedly – was unable to replace especially Hightower’s contributions versus the pass, Flowers did have his moments and was not overwhelmed by the additional responsibilities he was given midway through the season.
2018 preview: Flowers entered unrestricted free agency after the 2017 season but generated little interest on the open market. The Patriots were therefore able to re-sign him in late March on a one-year, $1.75 million contract that includes little guarantees. The contract is reflective of his standing on the team: Flowers is no roster lock by any means but will receive fair compensation as a role player if he is able to make the 53-man squad.
With New England adding two linebackers through the draft and getting Hightower and Langi back, Flowers’ best chance of surviving cutdown day primarily appears to come through his special teams contributions: the 26-year old was solid in that area last season, and his potential in the kicking game might give him an edge over his competition especially when his defensive experience is put into account as well.
Last season, Flowers proved that he was capable of serving as an emergency defender if need be – one that was particularly productive in the passing game. If he can build on his 2017 campaign and again give the coaching staff the confidence to trust him as a depth defender, he might very well be able to make the team over rookies Ja’Whaun Bentley or Christian Sam, or fellow special teamer Nicholas Grigsby.