With the heat on head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn, these five players have to be great for the Detroit Lions in 2020.
The two seasons under head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit have not gone well, with a 9-22-1 record. Last year’s 3-12-1 mark earned them the third overall pick in April’s draft, and it may be playoffs or bust for Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn this year.
Eight of the Lions’ 12 losses last year came were by one score, and a concerted effort was made to address what was one of the worst defenses in the league last year. Nine free agents were signed on that side of the ball, and that doesn’t count the trade with the Patriots for safety Duron Harmon. Then four drafts picks were used on defensive players, with the notable selection of running back DeAndre Swift in the second round.
Better health for a couple key players, and some reversal of fortune spurred by improvement from the defense, could bring a rise for the Lions this year. For that to happen though, these five players have to perform at a very high level.
5. DE Trey Flowers
The Lions ponied up to get Flowers from New England last offseason (five years, $90 million-$56 million guaranteed), with the idea he would be the centerpiece of a more formidable pass rush. But a shoulder issue at the end of 2018 lingered into Week 1, and while he did tie for the team lead with seven sacks Detroit had the second-lowest sack total in the league (28). They came in toward the bottom in deeper pass rush metrics too, which was not helpful to a secondary that struggled to cover anyone.
Detroit doesn’t blitz much (18 percent in 2019; third-lowest rate in the league). So barring a dramatic shift the pass rush will have to largely be generated from the front four, and that will start with Flowers coming off the edge. Three straight seasons with at least 20 quarterback hits suggests there may be a double-digit sack season in the offing, and the Lions will need it to come to fruition in 2020.