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Trey Flowers' next challenge is duplicating performance vs. top OLs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Second-year New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers didn't enter Thursday night's preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints until early in the second quarter, which reflected his place on the depth chart.

Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long started, and with Shea McClellin playing a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role, Flowers was the fourth man in. He took full advantage of the opportunity the rest of the way, playing 46 defensive snaps (second highest on the team) and providing a consistently disruptive presence.

Now the question is if Flowers can duplicate the performance when working against an opponent's first-unit offensive line instead of backups.

That will be something to watch next week as the Patriots welcome the Chicago Bears to town for three joint practices (Monday-Wednesday) and then a preseason game Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET), because when reviewing notes from film review of the preseason opener, Flowers' name kept showing up.

A sampling:

  • 12:51, second quarter -- A spin move to the inside to push the pocket on an incomplete pass.

  • 3:37, second quarter -- Stayed home on a screen play on third-and-25 on an incomplete pass.

  • 11:53, third quarter -- Good play recognition to not follow play-action on a 9-yard completion on first-and-10.

  • 9:45, third quarter -- Chased running back Travaris Cadet to the sideline, showing discipline on play-action, and tackled him on a 4-yard reception on third-and-3.

  • 3:09, third quarter -- Created pressure on a 6-yard completion.

  • 1:17, third quarter -- Drawn holding penalty on tackle Tyrus Thompson with a strong pass rush.

  • 14:24, fourth quarter -- Plays strong with hands to disengage on the rush to create a pressure on an incomplete pass.

  • 10:34, fourth quarter -- Rushing from an interior position over the left guard, he won over the outside shoulder for the strip sack, scoop and score.

Re-watching the game, the momentum Flowers built from the second quarter through the fourth was one of the big takeaways; one could almost feel a big play coming. He also played on the punt-coverage team.

If there was one quibble with Flowers' play on defense, he got sucked in on play-action a couple of times (11:22, third quarter; 14:19, fourth quarter).

Afterwards, Bill Belichick complimented him for having a nice offseason before detailing (a bit out of character) how the team decided to have him undergo surgery on his shoulder during the 2015 season (he went on IR on Dec. 1 after playing in just one game) so he would be ready for the 2016 offseason.

"I think the fact that he went on injured reserve so early last year is benefiting him this year because he’s had a full year of training and a full year of the installation and all the preparation going into the season," Belichick said. "He’s shown up pretty much daily in one way or another with some positive plays. He’s a hard working kid so hopefully it will continue to get better."

Indeed, that's the goal -- most notably to see if it happens against an opponent's top offensive line.