Will the Detroit Lions finish what Trey Flowers started?

Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions need a better overall pass rush in 2020. And what started with the signing of Trey Flowers last year could continue in the draft next week.

Before becoming the head coach of the Detroit Lions in 2018, Matt Patricia spent the previous six seasons as the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. And during that span, the Pats went to six-straight conference championships, three Super Bowls, and brought home two Lombardi Trophies.

Patricia and the Patriots had success despite the lack of a dominant pass rusher. Between 2012 and 2017, New England only had one player record double-digit sacks in a single season. That player was defensive end Chandler Jones, who did so twice (2013, 2015).

Patricia’s defense tends to generate its pass rush from numerous defenders instead of one premier edge rusher. In Detroit, the second-year head coach has struggled to replicate the success he had in New England, posting a disappointing combined record of 9-22-1.

Last season, Detroit’s defense recorded a total of only 28 sacks which was tied for the second-lowest amount in the NFL. The year before that sack total of a combined 43. That’s quite a drop-off considering the addition of defensive end Trey Flowers last offseason, who was inked to a massive five-year, $90 million contract as a premier free agent.

Flowers ended last season tied for the team-lead with 7.0 sacks, which is exactly what he averaged over his previous three seasons with the Patriots. Here’s what Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus wrote about Flowers’ impact in Detroit last season.

"“The lesson that the NFL can learn from the Lions’ signing of Flowers last offseason is that you are never just one pass-rusher away … Flowers was productive for the Lions in his first season with the team, earning an overall grade of 83.0 and notching 62 pressures on the season. But while he was just as productive as he was with the Patriots, the Lions still had one of the worst pass-rushes in the NFL.”"

The Lions looked to improve their pass rush this offseason by adding linebacker Jamie Collins in free agency. The 30-year old Collins is coming off a career season with the Patriots, recording a career-high 7.0 sacks. Unfortunately, the move was a bit of a wash as Detroit also released linebacker Devon Kennard who was responsible for 14.0 sacks for the Lions over the last two seasons.

Detroit clearly needs more pass rushers to add to their roster. And with the first few weeks of free agency now behind us, the 2020 NFL Draft is likely where the Lions will continue to try to build their front seven.

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Outside of the slim chance that Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young falls to their first-round selection, third overall, the Detroit Lions currently own a total of five picks in the top 109. It seems very likely that the Lions will use one or more of those selections to try and build upon the united pass rush they started with the signing of Trey Flowers last year.

Other than Young, some other prospect edge rushers to watch in next week’s draft are LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson, Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos, Utah’s Bradlee Anae, Boise State’s Curtis Weaver, Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes, and Wisconsin’s Zack Baun.