Thursday, January 07, 2021

Three highest-graded Lions in 2020 season


By Will Burchfield


19 hours ago (January 6, 2021)


It's hard to find positives for a team coming off its third straight last place finish in a season in which it fired its general manager and head coach. The next general manager and next head coach have their work cut out for them.

But it wasn't all bad for the Lions in 2020.

Romeo Okwara had a breakout year, finishing 10th in the NFL in sacks. Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow played at a Pro Bowl level on the offensive line. T.J. Hockenson took the second-year step the Lions were hoping for. D'Andre Swift was a difference-maker when healthy. Matthew Stafford did Matthew Stafford things.

Oh, and Jack Fox! Jack Fox punted the hell out of the ball.

And that's about it.

The advanced stats generally agree. Stafford and Decker were Detroit's two best players on offense, according to Pro Football Focus. Stafford ranked 12th among quarterbacks and Decker ranked 12th among offensive tackles.

Decker lived up to the $60 million extension he signed before the start of the season. He played every single snap on offense and kept Stafford clean almost every single time.

"Personally, I think I had really good year," Decker said Monday. "I think I was one of the best tackles in football. I wasn’t going to say that during the season, but the season’s over now and hopefully that’s something I can build on and improve upon."

While Stafford started slow, he finished with a flourish. His passer rating in 11 games under Matt Patricia: 92.7. In five games under Darrell Bevell: 106.2. He wasn't quite as good as he was last season prior to his back injury, but he posted 26 touchdowns versus 10 picks.

Stafford's 99.8 rating over the past two seasons in Bevell's offense is the best two-year stretch of his career. And now the big unknown: will Stafford be back?

On defense, Detroit's best player according to PFF was Trey Flowers. He was also the team's highest-graded player overall for the second straight season and the ninth highest-graded edge defender in the NFL.

Unfortunately for the Lions, Flowers played just seven games due to a fractured forearm he suffered in the team's Week 8 loss to the Colts. He finished with two sacks, three tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He said Monday he expects to be a "full-go" for the start of the offseason program.

"As far as personally, it's just motivation to come back next year better, stronger, faster, healthier and be able to finish the season so I can help my team out," Flowers said.

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