The New England Patriots are only one win away from another Super Bowl appearance, and a big reason for that is the play of defensive edge Trey Flowers. The 25-year old was dominant against the Los Angeles Chargers during Sunday’s divisional round matchup, and adding to an already fantastic season. Flowers, of course, is setting himself up well for an restricted free agency: he is scheduled to hit the open market in two months.
Whether or not Flowers stays is up in the air, but even if he returns to New England the team might opt to add to its defensive edge during the offseason. After all, Derek Rivers is a part time player at best, while Adrian Clayborn has been up and down and might not return on a $6.0 million salary cap charge. Therefore, it would not be a surprise to see the Patriots invest in the position after the season is over
And according to Mocking the Draft’s Dan Kadar, a local product might be on their radar:
Zach Allen, DE, Boston College
Allen will be a player who intrigues Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Allen could be used as a true 4-3 end, but in nickel situation be pushed inside. Allen would also give Belichick some versatility with his roster. If Trey Flowers asks for too much money in free agency, and the Patriots want to use their franchise tag on someone else, a player like Allen could help them move on.
As Dan notes, Zach Allen is indeed an intriguing player. At 6’5, 285 lbs, he brings impressive size to the table to serve as an edge rusher at the next level — one that is coming off a productive season at Boston College: the All-ACC First Team selection registered 61 tackles and a career-high 6.5 sacks in 12 games this season.
“Zach Allen is a powerhouse defense end who does well to stack up blockers and hold his ground at the line of scrimmage,” The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs said about him. The senior defender has plenty of positive traits — from his sound hand usage to his versatility and quick first step to a variety of pass rushing moves — but projecting him at the next level is still not that easy.
One part of the problem is limited athleticism. “A modest athlete with tight hips, projecting Allen to win around the corner consistently against NFL offensive tackles is hard to envision,” said Crabbs’ colleague Joe Marino about the 21-year old who has 50 games of experience under his belt. “While he does offer upside rushing interior gaps, there are limitations to him defending the run on the inside,”
Overall, Allen is a solid player that rather wins with technique, quickness and play recognition than with pure strength or athleticism. Whether or not this will be enough when going against NFL-level competition remains to be seen. However, to count on him to replace a player of Trey Flowers’ caliber during his rookie season would be naive.
Instead, Allen might benefit from being used in limited capacity early on and grown into a specific role as a sub pass rusher á la Deatrich Wise Jr. during his first year with the club. And ideally, he would be added to a Patriots defense that still has Flowers as a part of it — not just for New England’s sake but also to lift pressure off the player to perform in a prominent role from day one forward.