Patriots

Trey Flowers has been iron man for Patriots defense through five weeks

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Trey Flowers has been iron man for Patriots defense through five weeks

While reviewing the film of the Patriots-Buccaneers matchup from Thursday night, there was a play in the third quarter that stood out before the ball was even snapped. 

Where was Trey Flowers? A mainstay on the Patriots defensive line, it was odd not to see him at the line of scrimmage. 

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He was out there, though. As a middle linebacker.

It was a reminder of a) the different alignments Matt Patricia likes to deploy in the front-seven and b) just how reluctant the Patriots have been to remove one of their best defensive players from the field. 

Flowers missed just two snaps against the Bucs -- when Geneo Grissom subbed in to give him a brief breather in the fourth quarter -- and for the season he's been sidelined for only eight snaps total. 

Not bad for the 6-foot-2, 265-pounder. Especially considering that Flowers appeared to be playing through some lower-body discomfort at the ends of both the Chiefs and Texans games. 

"Level of conditioning is good," Bill Belichick said of the third-year end. "Trey works hard. He’s given us a lot of quality snaps. He has . . . been on the field quite a bit but, you know, he’s earned that playing time. We’ll see how it goes going forward. 

"He’s got good versatility for us. There’s a number of different things that he can do well. He works very hard to perform well. He trains hard. Some of that is the function of other players on the team and their roles and, again, what defense we’re in, the type of team we’re playing against, how much nickel, how much base and so forth. We just have to see how all of that goes on a week-to-week basis. He’s done a good job for us and I’m glad that we’ve had him out there."

It really hasn't mattered what the situation is. The Patriots have had Flowers out there and in a variety of roles. 

His debut at middle linebacker doesn't figure to be a sign that the Patriots will be using him there extensively going forward, but he plays on the end, as a three-technique, and right on the nose over opposing centers. 

Flowers has long arms and bevy of pass-rush moves that have been detailed in this space in the past, and they're certainly no secret to his opponents after notching a 2.5-sack performance in Super Bowl LI. 

Yet offenses haven't been able to figure him out. He's among the NFL's top-10 edge defenders, according to Pro Football Focus, in quarterback sacks (4), hits (7) and hurries (14). His 24 total pressures are ninth in the league regardless of position. 

And while Flowers is at his best going up the field, the Patriots have used Flowers to drop into coverage on a handful of occasions as well. 

"I don’t think he was asked to do a lot of that at Arkansas, but we’ve asked him to do some of those things in terms of coverage and playing inside, playing in the three technique," Belichick said. "He did a little bit of that in college but not a lot, probably more since he’s been here. He’s done a good job of applying himself in those situations and being a good contributor for us there."

Bill Belichick has asked some of his top defensive ends to play extensively in the past, with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich as two of the foremost examples of the coach's willingness to lean on ends as long as they're conditioning is up to snuff. 

Jones played 97.9 percent of the team's snaps in 2013, and he's on pace to hit 97 percent again this season for the Cardinals as the only defensive lineman with more snaps played (333) than Flowers (331). Ninkovich, meanwhile, played at least 80 percent of New England's defensive snaps from 2011-2015, and he broke the 90 percent marker in 2013 (96.0) and 2014 (94.1). 

It seems as though Flowers is next in line as the iron man on the edge of the Patriots defense. He's on pace to play 97.6 percent of their defensive snaps, and he's already approaching the halfway point of his total from last season (726, including playoffs). The only Patriots defenders to see more playing time than Flowers this season are Devin McCourty (338) and Kyle Van Noy (333). 

Fans overwhelmingly prefer Patriots go Stidham-Hoyer in 2020

Fans overwhelmingly prefer Patriots go Stidham-Hoyer in 2020

Why in God’s name do I keep reading and hearing “Cam Newton” and “Patriots” in the same sentence?  

Or Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton or any other backsliding veteran on the free-agent quarterback market?

Are people insane? Were they slumbering for the past 19 years? Or just a little forgetful?

The lead mule pulling their wagon for the past 20 years was a sixth-round pick. The only guy that filled in for the aforementioned sixth-rounder over an extended period was a seventh-round pick. The guy who was supposed to succeed the sixth-rounder was a second-rounder from a Div. II school.

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Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo were all overlooked, undervalued and brought into the Patriots laboratory where they turned into either good, really good or legendary quarterbacks. The Patriots brew their own quarterbacks, thank you very much.

And with a one-year hitch in salary cap jail hanging over them, they are not going to be in the market for someone looking to make a seven or eight-figure salary who just flunked out of a lesser team’s program.

The Patriots make their own brew, thank you very much.

Bill Belichick has the helmeted heads of so many first-rounders and first-overall picks mounted on his wall that suggesting he’d be in the market for a live one makes no sense.

During Tom Brady’s long goodbye, I was told by team sources the Patriots weren’t going to be chasing a veteran “name.” And their actions since have signaled that.

They are going with their fairly-promising fourth-rounder, Jarrett Stidham, and they have Brian Hoyer (undrafted free agent who came into the league with the Patriots in 2009) to take the reins if the Coronavirus-marred offseason means Stidham’s not ready.

And, thanks to our Quarantine Question of the Day posed Monday morning on Twitter, it’s clear most Patriots fans think that’s the right approach.

Of the 5,148 votes cast in six hours, 64.6 percent of respondents chose “Ride with Stidham/Hoyer” as the preferred Patriots approach for 2020.

Meanwhile, 12.2 percent felt that bringing in a rookie to compete with Stidham was the move to make. I suggested either Tua Tagovailoa or Jordan Love in the poll. Others suggested different options to battle Stidham as Brady’s successor.

I jokingly included an option to trade with the Bucs for Brady. A significant portion (17.4 percent) of the populace thought that was a capital idea (even though Brady has a no-trade clause).

There was a suggestion I didn’t hate -- grabbing Niners backup Nick Mullens to come in and push Stidham.

The least popular option was recycling someone like Newton. That option drew just 5.8 percent of the vote.

And one respondent had a hard time making his selection at all.

It happens. We’ll be back later in the week with more QUARANTINE QUESTIONS OF THE DAY!!!!

Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham 'has a lot of great qualities', says Matthew Slater

Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham 'has a lot of great qualities', says Matthew Slater

Matthew Slater is the latest New England Patriots player to give a positive review of young quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

The Patriots selected Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and after not getting many regular season reps as a rookie, he's now the leading candidate to replace Tom Brady after the six-time Super Bowl champion left to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.

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Taking over for the greatest quarterback in NFL history will be an enormous challenge for Stidham (or whoever wins the starting job for Week 1), but Slater is optimistic about the 23-year-old's talent and mental makeup.

"He's a great kid, and I think that’s the thing that is going to matter the most with any player – who is he as a man, who is he as a person, what’s he motivated by? He’s just a great kid to be around," Slater said Monday during a media conference call. "He brings a lot of positive energy, he’s always got a smile on his face, and you can tell he’s very appreciative of the opportunity that he had last year and the opportunity that he’ll have going forward. So, certainly he has a lot of great qualities that can make him a good player at the quarterback position. Coach Belichick and his staff wouldn’t have brought him in here if they didn’t think he had those qualities.

"I think at that position, almost more than any other, it’s going to be the intangibles that get a guy to maybe a successful position. So, I think he’s got some good traits. I think he’s going to be a good player. His attack, his approach is going to have to be one day at a time, just like any of us. I think it’s important, and I’ll certainly encourage him, just to be himself – be himself, continue to be the person that he is, continue to be the teammate that he is, and we’ll just take this thing one day at a time."

Slater isn't the only Patriots player who's given a positive review of Stidham of late. Veteran safety Devin McCourty praised Stidham's poise and maturity (among other qualities) during a recent episode of his "Double Coverage" podcast and on a media conference call last week.

Stidham showed flashes of his exciting potential during last year's training camp and preseason, and now he should get the opportunity to prove he's capable of being a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. Even though this will be a brand new and difficult challenge for him, he does have some good experience to help him. Stidham played against SEC competition for two years as Auburn's starting quarterback before spending all of 2019 learning from Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Patriots fans will love Slater's mindset on the team's 2020 goals