FOXBORO — Just wait till Trey Flowers arrives on the scene.
After legitimate concerns over the lack of pass rush for the last several years, the Patriots might actually be able to get to the quarterback on a regular basis in 2018.
That, at least, is the hope and promise games like Thursday night provide. The Patriots sacked the Eagles eight times in a 37-20 win over the defending Super Bowl champions, including three of the defending Super Bowl MVP with the starting offensive line in front of Nick Foles.
Trey Flowers, arguably the Patriots’ best pure pass rusher, hasn’t played a down in the preseason.
But Thursday night, pressure came from everywhere. There were edge rushes, corner blitzes, inside attacks. You name it, the Patriots pass rush was on full display. Last season, the Patriots were a very respectable seventh in sacks with 42. But watching the film led many to believe they didn’t pressure the quarterback in key moments, like in Super Bowl LII, when they didn’t record a single sack. That left a vulnerable secondary exposed.
Bill Belichick postgame press conference: https://t.co/mQvpEWBwRH
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 17, 2018
Enter Adrian Clayborn as a free agent, Derek Rivers and Dont’a Hightower back from injury to join the likes of Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler, Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy. Even Kyle Van Noy was getting into the backfield some on Thursday, including a 13-yard sack of Nate Sudfeld. The Patriots have lots of options in their front seven to get to the quarterback.
“I think the most exciting part is the diversity,” Adam Butler said. “There’s so many people that can do a lot of different things. You’ve got some guys who can rush inside and outside. Some guys who are just very talented on the edge and to watch everybody come out and show their skills tonight is amazing.”
Adrian Clayborn, whose strip-sack of Nick Foles produced a fumble return for a touchdown for Ja’Whaun Bentley and a strained shoulder for Foles, knows exactly why he was brought to New England.
“Part of my job as a defensive lineman is to get after the quarterback and they were passing a lot tonight, so we had to get after the quarterback so we don’t leave our DBs out to dry,” Clayborn said in a fitting tone of honesty. “We’re working hard to be good and I think we will get there hopefully.”
For Clayborn, just getting the reps of hitting the quarterback out of the way is a good thing in the preseason.
“Yeah, this weird. Preseason is always good for that,” the 30-year-old veteran said. “Finally get to wrap up the quarterback. I slipped off one because I’ m just not used to it. Everybody is not used to it, but that’s what preseason is for.”
How good can this front seven be once Trey Flowers is added?
“Time will tell. I won’t put a prediction on it, but if we keep working hard and keep doing what we got to do we will be good,” Clayborn said.