Yesterday, the New England Patriots cut their roster down to 52 men. Over the course of the offseason, we have taken a look at the players who fought for these spots to find out who had the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Today, the series has reached its final entry as we finish it by taking a closer look at New England’s number one defensive edge.
Name: Trey Flowers
Position: Defensive edge
Jersey number: 98
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6’2, 265 lbs.
2017 review: Coming off a breakout season, Trey Flowers was the lone member of the Patriots’ Super Bowl-winning defensive edge rotation to return to the team in 2017. He naturally became the team’s top option at the position and lived up to the expectations that come along with that role: Flowers had another productive season as New England’s best pass rusher and most consistent edge-setter.
All in all, the former fourth-round draft pick finished the season as the team’s leader in every significant pass rushing category: Flowers registered 7.5 sacks, 28 quarterback hits and an additional 24 hurries. He also forced two fumbles and was generally one of the most disruptive edge rushers in all of football when it came to impacting plays in a positive way for the defense – something New England lacked opposite of him.
Once again, Flowers was a reliable presence along the Patriots’ defensive line. With a revolving door on the left side of the formation, Flowers held down the fort on the right: while a rib injury forced him to miss weeks 13 and 14, the Arkansas product still finished the regular season having played 802 of a possible 1,060 defensive snaps (75.7%). He added 197 snaps (of 216; 91.2%) during another generally productive postseason run.
In the Super Bowl, for example, Flowers was one of the few brighter spots on New England’s defense. Even though he failed to register a sack against one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, he was able to generate regular pressure especially late in the game: just like one year earlier, his strong conditioning – despite playing 100% of defensive snaps – allowed him to challenge the blockers in front of him and increase pressure in the fourth quarter.
Despite Flowers’ efforts in 2017, the Patriots came up short in the title game. Nevertheless, the season as a whole can be seen as a another success for Flowers: he was able to make the most out of his opportunities and despite an increased workload when compared to 2016 remained a productive and valuable member of New England’s defense.
2018 preview: While the defensive edge was a weakness for the Patriots outside of Flowers last year, it appears to be turning into a strength: with Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis all joining the fourth-year man and second-year defender Deatrich Wise Jr. in the rotation, the entire group should be better and more productive when compared to 2017 – and that projection does include Flowers himself.
While he had a very good campaign last year, the 25-year old could have benefitted from getting more snaps off and seeing his on-field time reduced a bit: Flowers played around 90% of defensive snaps when active, a vast increase when compared to 2016. With better depth surrounding him, it would not be a surprise to see this number go down into the 60s or 70s again. As a result of this, his impact could go up even more.
Ultimately, it would not be a surprise if Flowers surpassed his 2017 production this year in a more clearly defined role and delivered the best season of his career. In turn, this would set him up well heading towards free agency: playing on the final year of his rookie deal, he appears to be in line for a big payday. The question is whether or not he and the Patriots will come to agreement during the season.