Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Trey Flowers' elite all-around showing boosts Detroit’s defensive line in dominating win


Updated Oct 19, 2020; Posted Oct 19, 2020

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark is sandwiched between Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers (90) and cornerback Jeff Okudah, right, after catching a pass during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)AP


By Benjamin Raven |

ALLEN PARK -- The Detroit Lions made some critical defensive adjustments in Sunday’s win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Detroit sent more pressure and dropped back in zone coverage more than it had all season.

While Matt Patricia’s defensive adjustments deserve credit, it’s hard to look past what Trey Flowers accomplished in Jacksonville. The Lions defensive end was a monster against the run and turned in a picture-perfect strip-sack of Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew. Flowers even left his mark dropping back in coverage, which drew his head coach’s attention on Monday.

“Trey is someone that shows up every single week and does stuff that you’re just like -- it’s almost clinic-like teaching,” Patricia said via Zoom. "Phenomenal play on the edge -- they ran the stretch over to him, he sets the edge on the tight end and knocks the line of scrimmage back by 2 yards and escapes off the play and makes a very violent tackle. That was phenomenal. He had a great rush off the edge, obviously, and turned the ball over with the strip-sack, which was good. I’d say one of my more favorite plays I saw -- he actually had a play where he was in coverage.

“There was a crosser coming from the other side and, I mean, he looked like he had been doing that naturally all the time. Maybe less coaching is better right there because he played that thing phenomenally. I just think that he’s a guy that pays attention to the details. He goes out and works extremely hard every single day to just be the best that he can be. I think it’s a great example for everybody that’s around him of how you need to approach every single week. You don’t know what plays are going to impact the game, but just go out and focus on that play, and if it’s not a great play, then go out and do the best you can on the next play. I think that’s just how he is. That’s how he’s wired. That was good to see.”

Flowers was credited with two pressures and three tackles to go with that perfectly executed strip-sack. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the top overall edge defender from Sunday’s games. He slotted second in the pass rush and seventh against the run. Flowers even brought home PFF’s fifth-best coverage marks at his position with the fine play.

Detroit’s defense sacked Minshew only once but hit him another four times while racking up a ridiculous 21 pressures. The Lions entered with only 43 pressures on the season through their first four games, which was quite the turnaround performance.

It was even better against the run, with Detroit’s league-worst run defense holding Jacksonville to just 44 yards on the ground. James Robinson could not get it going, with the rooking running back running 12 times for 29 yards. Heading into the Week 6 matchup, Flowers said he thought the pass rush would improve once the Lions stopped the run. Well, it certainly worked out that way on Sunday.

“We knew it was a task coming in here to Jacksonville; they were a running team. We knew it was a challenge,” Flowers said after the game. “We stood up to the challenge throughout practice and here today. Yeah, it definitely allowed us to control the game. Obviously, like I said in the past if they can run the ball. Why would they pass it? We got them one-dimensional by stopping the run. Got them one-dimensional, know we can pin our heads back as a defensive front (and) dial a lot of different things.”

Flowers and Romeo Okwara have dominated snaps on the edge, and that continued in Week 6. Okwara led the team with four pressures, landed two quarterback hits and also recovered the fumble.

Sixth-round rookie John Penisini has continued to see his role grow on the interior, seeing another 21 snaps in Jacksonville. PFF was impressed with Penisini, ranking him as the fifth-best interior defender against the run. Patricia gave the rookie props in his Monday media availability, saying Penisini’s ability in the middle of the line opens up other avenues to move guys around in the trenches.

For those wondering what the rotation on the inside looked like, Nick Williams (33), Danny Shelton (32), Da’Shawn Hand (32) and Penisini (21) led an evenly split charge.

“I think John has done a good job all the way through from camp and just really steadily improving,” Patricia said. "That’s something that we saw -- his play was able to get better in through some of the practices that we’ve had. I thought it was good to kind of put him in the middle and see how that anchored some things for us to allow those other guys like you said to move around and maybe be in some different positions.

“It was good to see. I thought he played well. He’s strong. He can play very low to the ground. He does a good job with his hand placement, and it was good to see for his first chance to get a lot of reps out there and play really well. We’ll see how that goes moving forward, but I was proud of him for going out and competing hard.”

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