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The Patriots' Latest Signing Shows Their Desire For An Iron Wall

The Patriots made another important offseason signing yesterday, signing veteran DE Trey Flowers back to the team, strengthening their defensive depth and giving themselves another important locker room presence. What can the team expect from Flowers, and what will his role be in a defense that is looking more and more impervious each day?



Quick Recap Of Flowers' NFL Career To This Point

Flowers comes to New England after a brief, injury-marred season in Miami. He started his career in New England, and it's there where he enjoyed ample success. In his first four years of action (three in New England), he averaged seven sacks a season and was a constant and disruptive presence.


He comes to the Patriots again after three seasons in a row hampered by struggles with injury, and while it's unclear what kind of form is awaiting him in his return, he's back to the place that kick-started his career.


What Does Flowers Bring To The Patriots?

While his size is somewhat typical for a DE, his quickness is not. His raw speed is just a bit better than typical, but his game speed is not. Flowers has a spatial awareness of where he is and where he needs to be at any given point, and the footwork to make the most out of it. He has a quick burst off the line and his reactions allow him to often put offensive tackles on their back foot. He sheds blocks effectively and in a timely manner, and is often able to avoid them entirely.


He's a clean, adept hitter and has the ability to complete tackles against quick-moving running backs as well as QBs. While of course, he doesn't have the quickness to win a chase against a skill position, his spatial awareness makes it so that he often doesn't have to. He's extremely quick with adjusting to changes in the course of a play and uses that intuition well to switch assignments and close on the ball carrier.


I'll take a quick sidebar into his Patriots history to make the point that he makes big plays at the right times:


Lots of people will see the Edleman catch as the defining moment of Super Bowl LI. Even though it was a play that will live in Patriots lore forever, I see the previously shown one as the play of the game. The Falcons were WELL in FG range, and converting a FG would have completely iced the game for them. Flowers singlehandedly extracted them out of range, blowing through an adept Falcons line and taking no hesitation whatsoever to complete the play - eventually leading to a punt that set up the Patriots' game-tying drive.


Flowers has an upstanding character and understanding of the game. Having also been in the Patriots' system before, all in all, he will be a great locker room presence, as he has been from the very beginning of his career.


What Are Flowers' Weak Points?

There's no secret that the version of Flowers that has played the last three years has not been the same guy that played the first four. Injuries have been the primary root cause for this, but it's unclear whether he can reach his previous ceiling. The limited footage from those years shows a version of him that, while showing some of those strengths, is just a tad slower and less lethal.


He doesn't have the versatility to drop back into coverage, even though he does have the ability to stop the run. His role has been and will continue to have to be focused on pass rush and secondarily run stopping. He also does sometimes lack the ability to close - three years in the Belichick system did help, but it's been an issue that's been plaguing him since college. He's still, however, been able to produce in spite of that.



What Will His Role Look Like In New England?

The Patriots do have well-established edge players in Matt Judon and Deatrich Wise, and Keion White adds to that. Flowers will be a valuable depth piece and a potential situational player for New England, as well as someone who can reduce the load of their starters. Flowers is only 29, though, and back in New England, he could emerge as more than just a depth signing.


In the locker room and practice field, Flowers will bring a presence that has won multiple super bowls as a Patriot - something that is becoming more and more scarce on the team. He becomes an instant mentor to a young LB core and a presence that can help the whole defense.


The Patriots, in the draft, and in the offseason, have shown their commitment to having a defensive stronghold. Time will tell what the payoff is.

 

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