New leader of Patriots' defense, Brian Flores, 'tough on players'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots’ defense will have a new leader in 2018. Coordinator Matt Patricia has moved on to become head coach of the Detroit Lions, and linebackers coach Brian Flores will elevate his responsibilities without the specific coordinator title.

So what on-the-field changes might come with that?

Don’t expect anything major, according to Flores, who made it clear that coach Bill Belichick’s preferred philosophy will continue to be on display.

“There is a long history of this defense. Bill’s been here for a number of years, so I would say we’re going to continue to play defense like we’ve played the past 18 seasons he’s been here,” the 37-year-old Flores said.

As for what that means, Flores elaborated on the characteristics he’d like a “Brian Flores-coached defense” to have, and the first thing he said was that it was “going to sound like a Bill Belichick-coached team.”

“Tough, smart, dependable, can play under pressure,” Flores noted. “That’s been a good formula. I’ll go with that one.”

Schematically, that means a multiple unit that will do a number of different things on a weekly basis (and sometimes a play-to-play basis), with defensive linemen often asked to carry out two-gap responsibilities (being responsible for gaps on both sides, which is more of a read-and-react style of play compared to an up-the-field penetrating line).

Listening to Flores speak for a little more than 15 minutes late last week, it was clear why he’s already on the radar for head-coaching openings, as he had interviewed with the Arizona Cardinals this past offseason.

A few things that stood out:

His coaching philosophy. “My goal as a coach is to help our guys to become the best version of themselves -- on and off the field. I work hard to achieve that goal.”

Don’t talk about personal imprints. He was asked multiple times about having the chance to put his own stamp on the defense, and he deflected the thought. He said it’s about a “team imprint” more than anything about what he’s doing.

Passion for football is evident. Having been with the Patriots staff since being hired in 2004 as a scouting assistant out of Boston College, Flores has deep appreciation for what he does. “I’m passionate about the game, passionate about coaching,” he said.

All about the details. When Flores was asked for his general thoughts on the defense, he instead focused on the finer points. “Footwork, hand placement, tackle, playing the deep ball,” he said, highlighting what the team is working on in its voluntary offseason program, which is the time to build a foundation.

Demanding approach. As for how Flores’ playing style at Boston College has translated to his coaching approach, he was quick to point out that he “wasn’t very good” or “very fast” and was undersized. But what he had going for himself was toughness. “That’s my coaching style,” he said. “I’m tough on the players. I think you need to be tough on them so they can be disciplined. You need discipline to play this game.”