With Trey Flowers joining the Detroit Lions, pass-rush becomes an immediate concern for the New England Patriots.
In one of the first blockbuster moves of the 2019 free agency period, Patriots’ defensive end Trey Flowers joined his former defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, in Detroit as a member of the Lions.
The Patriots did attempt to keep Flowers, but their offer was nowhere near Detroit’s monstrous offer.
With Flowers out the door, pass-rush becomes an immediate concern for the Patriots.
Someone will have to step up in Flowers’ absence. The question to be asked is: is that player currently on the team, or will the Patriots find him through free agency?
It’s also possible New England addresses the need through the upcoming NFL Draft.
Regardless, the departure of the team’s best pass-rusher will create a puzzling scenario until a player, or players, step up to do their job.
A day before the start of the legal tampering period, the New England Patriots acquired defensive end Michael Bennett from the Eagles in exchange for a fifth-round pick.
This signing served as the writing on the wall for Flowers.
Bennett is a polished veteran who has been an intimidating force on the defensive line for his entire career. Even at 33 years old, Bennett could step in and provide immediate help at a thin position.
One factor that points to the Patriots’ furthering their pursuit of additional pass-rushers is the scheme that will be employed by new defensive coordinator, Greg Schiano.
The former NFL and NCAA head coach utilizes heavy blitz calling combined with stingy man-to-man coverage, creating an aggressive style of play.
With the natural need for a pass-rush in any defensive scheme, it’s easy to see why the Pats will want to stock up on talent in the front seven entering the 2019 season.
The Patriots currently have Bennett, Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers, and Deatrich Wise Jr. at defensive end. Keionta Davis also played snaps at the position but is more of a practice squad player.
Lawrence Guy anchors the line at defensive tackle, along with Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton.
Currently, Brown and Shelton are scheduled to hit the open market.
With the departure of Flowers, investments will be made for the future to develop players at the position, as there is not much youth along the defensive line.
A player to focus on as we begin the new season is Derek Rivers.
The former third-round pick from 2017 was projected to be a steal after he dropped in the draft.
Rivers is a physical specimen with raw talent.
Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in training camp and missed his rookie year and only played six games in 2018 as Flowers was in the starting spot.
If the rising third-year pass rusher can harness his potential and the opportunity in front of him, he could step into the role he was hoping to fill back in the 2017 season.
With a strong linebacking core and incredibly deep secondary, there is one clear position group that needs addressing with free agency and the draft.
The first step for New England would be to try and re-sign Brown or Shelton to a team-friendly deal.
If they can’t reach deals with either of the two, Belichick will be aggressively targeting interior and outside pass-rushers in the upcoming draft.
Without Flowers, the pass-rushing takes a hit. However, losing a superstar has never stopped Belichick, and odds are the Patriots will be just fine without him.