Deatrich Wise

Flowers' sacks may be down but his impact isn't

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Flowers' sacks may be down but his impact isn't

FOXBORO - Trey Flowers appeared on the fast track to stardom in the second half of last season and right on through the playoffs. He spent about as much time in opposing backfields as the skill position players on those teams. 

Starting Week 8 at Buffalo, the defensive end racked up 9 1/2 sacks in the Patriots final dozen games, including 2 1/2 in the dramatic Super Bowl victory over Atlanta.

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Even with the departure of fellow edge rushers Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long and Rob Ninkovich, Flowers picked up right where he left off starting this season, dropping Alex Smith a pair of times in the opener versus Kansas City. However, since then, the soft-spoken Alabama native has recorded just 1 1/2 sacks and has actually been shut out in that category over the past three games. But don’t for a second think Flowers isn’t producing.

Kyle Van Noy credited Flowers for a couple of important penetrations in the Sunday night showdown with Atlanta and Adam Butler said his first ever NFL sack was a direct result of all the attention devoted to Flowers.

“I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help us win,” said Flowers. “Whatever the coaches ask, whatever the defense calls for, that’s what I’ll do.”

The Pats have asked for Flowers to fill a variety of roles this year up and down the line. Line up over the center? Sure. Head up on the guard? Why not? 3 technique? 5? 7? 9? If there’s a number for it, and a need, Flowers has done it. Maybe that’s been to his detriment and caused the sack shortage, but Flowers wouldn’t be there if he couldn’t handle it.

“Well, Trey's done some things like that for us in the past; not as much as he has this year,” said Bill Belichick. “This year we've had some different situations at the defensive end position at various points in time. Trey has a lot of experience or the most experience of our defensive linemen. He's also athletic and can handle a degree of versatility in our responsibilities. I’m not sure that’s always the best thing for him, but sometimes he’s the best we have at it. He does a good job and works hard at it and does what’s best for the team. One of the things you love about Trey is how committed he is to the team and how willing he is to do whatever it takes, whatever we need him to do and he does a pretty good job of it.”

Obviously, part of Flowers success is because of his physical abilities. At 6-2, 268 pounds, he has long arms, excellent power and short area quickness in addition to a motor that’s always running no matter where he lines up. But there are plenty of players in this league with measurables equal to or better than Flowers. That’s where the work ethic - he’s notorious for working on his craft long after practice and meetings are over - and his football smarts come into play. 

“Obviously I’ve been in the system,” he said. “I’m going on my third year, understanding what the coaches expect, how they want to attack certain quarterbacks, certain offenses. That time spent will help you out going into the game, knowing what they [coaches] want to do.”

Flowers says that maybe you don’t pick up a tendency or a call or a key right away but by continuing to work at it, continuing to study, you can pick up one or two things that may change the way a series goes or even a game. That’s enough for him.

“If I can call something to get us in the right position to make plays or to make a play myself, that’s where that work comes in.”

That extra effort is nothing new. Flowers has been the same guy since he walked into the building following the 2015 draft, where the Pats selected him in the fourth round.

“First and foremost what stands out about Trey is his work ethic and his approach to how he handles himself as a professional and to getting better,” said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. “The classroom is the same. For him, I think it's something that he works extremely hard at and for a guy that can do a couple different things for us, his understanding of what we do, I think it's along the natural progression. There's not that many guys that just come in and right away, on the whole, if you look at everybody, that just play all the snaps immediately. So, he's a guy that falls into that category. Someone that's worked really hard to try to earn himself some play time on the field and has shown the consistency to be out there as much as we can get him out there and put him in those positions.”

Considering the Pats defensive issues, and availability issues up in general for the front seven, Flowers has been a rock. 

He’s played the fourth-most snaps of any player on the defense and has been one of the few to grade out positively week in and week out on Pro Football Focus. So while the sack numbers are down, Flowers remains one of the foundational pieces of a unit that was improving before the bye. 

It's a defense that believes it has all the pieces in place to make a long run into January and February. Freeing up Flowers will help the cause but his willingness to sacrifice himself and his stats for the better of the team should tell you all you need to know about the player and his importance for the 2017-18 Patriots. That makes him a star in the Patriots world and that - for now - is more than enough for Flowers.

Patriots seem to have found another impactful pass-rusher in Deatrich Wise

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Patriots seem to have found another impactful pass-rusher in Deatrich Wise

When Deatrich Wise notched his first sack as a pro in Week 1 against the Chiefs, it wasn't quite what he had envisioned all his life. Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith tripped over himself trying to avoid pressure and all Wise had to do was be the first to touch him to get credit. 

But in Sunday's win against the Chiefs, Wise got his money's worth on No. 2, and he nearly had a couple of others. His sack of Drew Brees in the third quarter knocked the Saints out of field goal range and forced a Thomas Morstead punt.

To that point in the game, Wise had three quarterback hits -- and on two of those, Brees hit receivers for long gains -- so he was fired up to finally get home.

"When I finally got to him, I was excited," Wise said. "Was rushing a few times, was missing, kept hitting him, but there's nothing like getting an actual sack."

Wise finished the game with a whopping five quarterback hits, a sack and two tackles for losses, and it looks as though he's going to be able to provide the Patriots with a solid option as a pass-rusher along with fellow Arkansas product Trey Flowers.

After a summer-long debate as to where the Patriots would get their pass rush, the fourth-round pick -- the only 2017 draft pick to make the 53-man roster out of training camp -- has emerged.

Wise had an encouraging start to camp and immediately performed as one of the team's top defensive linemen. A concussion during the preseason opener against the Jaguars limited his practice time, but since he's been cleared, he immediately re-established himself as one of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's third-down rushers. 

In 34 pass-rush snaps, Wise has recorded seven quarterback pressures (sacks, hits and hurries), according to Pro Football Focus. Though it's a small sample size, those numbers have made him one of the most productive pass-rushers in the league on a per-snap basis through two weeks.

His seven pressures is tied for eighth in the league, while Flowers (11) is fourth. 

"It's been great, these last few games," Wise said after beating the Saints. "I just want to keep showing my teammates and my coaches what I can do for this team."

Wise's experience in the SEC and physical skill set have helped him adapt to the pro game relatively quickly. He also seems to have a good grasp on how to use is length to his advantage -- perhaps as a result of working closely alongside Flowers, whose length is also one of his advantages in the trenches.

Coming into the draft, Wise measured in at 6-foot-5, 274 pounds with 35.5-inch arms and 10.5-inch hands, giving him dimensions that were strikingly similar to Chandler Jones when Jones was drafted out of Syracuse in 2012.

Bill Belichick likes what he's seen from Wise thus far, but he noted on Monday that Wise is still a work in progress, even when it comes to taking advantage of his length.

"I think that the length can be a good thing for a player if he knows how to use it and he plays with good leverage," Belichick said. "It can be a bad thing if long players play high and let other players play with better leverage and get underneath their pad level. It’s a potential opportunity, again, if it’s used properly with good pad level, leverage and technique, but it could also not be a good thing if it’s not used properly and just gives the blockers a bigger target and just isn’t effective.

"Deatrich’s worked hard on the techniques that Coach [Brendan] Daly’s been working with him on, both in the running game and the passing game. There were certainly some positive things that showed up yesterday and even last week. I still think there’s a long way to go, a lot of things that he can improve on. But, if he continues to work hard at it like he has been, then hopefully each week we’ll be able to see some improvement and better techniques and better fundamentals in all of the different areas of the game -- not just pass rush, but the running game and playing combination blocks and all the different sorts of things that come into really the heart of the issue, which is playing with good pad level, pad level leverage and technique."

After his second straight impactful performance, though encouraged, Wise expressed similar sentiments.

"There's still room to grow," he said. "I'm still learning every day. Malcom [Brown], Trey, [Lawrence] Guy [are] always telling me things I can work on daily. I'm really behind right now, I've got to catch up . . . I'm a rookie so I have a lot to learn about the game, about the playbook and about this whole thing."

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Dont'a Hightower off PUP, returns to Patriots practice

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Dont'a Hightower off PUP, returns to Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- On Tuesday at Gillette Stadium, Dont’a Hightower was in uniform and practicing with his teammates for the first time since training camp began last month. Hightower's participation means he has been removed from the physically unable to perform list. 

In full pads, wearing Alabama crimson underneath his Patriots jersey, Hightower took part in drills with on-the-line players early in the practice. Members of the media were able to watch only a few minutes of the workout following warm-ups. 

The players Hightower worked in with comes as little surprise as he has been used at the end of the line in certain packages in the past. With David Harris now in the mix at linebacker, and with Rob Ninkovich retired, it could free up Hightower to play more on the end of the line. 

Nate Solder, Deatrich Wise and LaAdrian Waddle were all back on the practice field for the Patriots Tuesday as well. Solder has yet to play this preseason, while Wise suffered a head injury in the team’s preseason-opener against the Jaguars. Waddle sustained a head injury last week.

Missing from the session were Rex Burkhead as well as Malcolm Mitchell, Matthew Slater, Shea McClellin, Tony Garcia, Matt Lengel, Derek Rivers and Andrew Jelks (non-football injury list).  

Burkhead seemed to finish Saturday's game in Houston without incident. He spoke to reporters on Monday, and there were no indications he was dealing with any physical limitations. Mitchell seemed to tweak something in his knee on his first play against the Texans, but he stayed in the game and caught two passes for 13 yards.