The Detroit Lions made the right move by signing Trey Flowers. But this move is about stopping offenses, not about sack production.
The Lions also signed two other former Patriots: wide receiver Danny Amendola and cornerback Justin Coleman. Because general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia have become so reliant on the players from their former employer, I am now dubbing this franchise from the great state of Michigan as the “New Mitten Patriots.”
Honestly, it’s fine to try and acquire familiarity. These moves bring in some needed pieces, but they also bring in guys that can help change the culture in Detroit. The important thing is that the people drafted into this franchise are also buying into that change.
The Detroit Lions had to pay up to get the best pass rusher in free agency. The numbers for Trey Flowers are tremendous with a five year, $90 million contract. And according to Albert Breer, there is a massive amount of guarantees included:
On Tuesday’s “Jamie and Stoney” radio program (on 97.1 FM The Ticket), co-hosts Jamie Samuelson and Mike Stone (nicknamed “Stoney”) spoke with Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. The discussion began with the acquisition of Flowers. Stoney felt that because Flowers is younger than defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah – Flowers will be 26 in August, Ansah turns 30 in May – and since the money is about the same, the move to Flowers is pretty even. This was Birkett’s response (03-12-19):
"“Well, younger player, different player. Ziggy was a better pass rusher. Trey Flowers has never had double digit sacks. Not in college. Not in the pros. So, he’s gonna do some different things. He’s a really solid run defender. Sets a good edge. He’s a little more versatile.”"
Here is what is important about this signing. Flowers is unlikely to ever get the type of statistics that will make the media, the fans, and probably even ownership happy about his contract. Flowers is unlikely to compile big sack numbers. Honestly, he may never even reach double digits in his time with Detroit.
"“I think you can move [Flowers] around. Definitely not the same sort of player [as Ansah]. I wouldn’t expect the exact same production. But for what this defense is, and what Matt Patricia wants, he’s a fit.”"
What this all comes down to is what the Patriots – and by extension Patricia – do on defense. They don’t emphasize sacks, the Patriots want to create pressure.
But with pressure, specifically created by the front four, you can have seven players roaming the passing lanes. The NFL is a passing league, and this is an important way to control opposing offenses.
What the front four is supposed to do in this Patricia defense is make the quarterback uncomfortable. The best thing in this defense is when the quarterback makes throws before the receiver can get open. It is also important to prevent the quarterback from extending plays by getting outside the pocket.
It is a defense that takes quite a bit of discipline, but it can be quite effective. The problem is that when Flowers doesn’t have the stats, everyone will think the Detroit Lions severely overpaid.
That’s not how it works. The outcome will not be statistics for Trey Flowers or any of his fellow defensive lineman. The results will be less big plays, less sustained drives, less red zone efficiency, and less points on the board.
The Detroit Lions are committing to something big with the signing of Flowers. It is not just a matter of money – it is a matter of philosophy.
It is a big step towards building a great defense. But how quickly the results show on the field will depend on what else is done by this team. Building this kind of defense takes the right type of guys, who are more concerned with doing their job than getting the glory of a sack.
This is a major shift for this franchise. If it works, the Detroit Lions will have a top-notch defense and can start thinking about a Lombardi Trophy. But if it fails, it could mean ownership makes yet another change in management. Going forward, patience will be key.