This time last year during Lions training camp, veteran defensive end Trey Flowers had only been off the physically unable to perform list for a little over a week. He was trying to get himself back into football shape after rehabbing a shoulder injury all of last offseason.
That late start a year ago resulted in a bit of a slow start to his regular season. But after a month or so of getting his legs under him and fine tuning some technique work, Flowers started to turn it on.
From Weeks 8-17 last year, Flowers' 18 quarterback hits were the third most by any defensive end over that span. He ended the season recording at least 50 tackles, 7.0 sacks and two forced fumbles for a second consecutive season. He and Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt are the only players to have that stat line the last two years. What would those numbers have looked like without the slow start?
What a difference a year has made for Flowers. He's had an entire offseason to train, and has been full go from the start of this year's training camp.
"It's definitely beneficial for me," Flowers said about being a full participant to start camp this season. "I'm a fundamental guy, technique guy, and the thing about defensive linemen is our contact is right off the ball, so our fundamentals and our footwork and hand placement and all of that has to be precise.
"I think me being able to work on that this year and work on that precision and work on that accuracy will definitely allow me to be further along and be ready once the season comes."
That's a big plus for a Lions defense needing its best player to hit the ground running starting Week 1 vs. Chicago if they're going to get off to a good start and be a much improved unit than they were a year ago.
The Lions' defense has a lot of new pieces. Flowers touched on the importance of adding players this offseason like safety Duron Harmon, linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. and defensive tackle Danny Shelton, veteran players with a good track record of success and production in a similar style defense coming over from the New England Patriots this offseason.
"Obviously they add a lot of successful experience, just success in this defense and understanding that this defense works and understanding what it takes to make this defense to work," Flowers said.
View photos from practice during Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage on Aug. 22, 2020.
Harmon, Collins and Shelton combined for 164 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 10.0 sacks and five interceptions playing in a similar defense for the Patriots in 2019.
"Just adding those guys, the familiarity (with the defense), it gives the young guys a standard to look forward to. A group of guys that carry themselves the right way, carry themselves like a pro and understand the defense," Flowers said. "We've been able to teach the young guys. Teach guys in their particular group as far as what it takes to be successful in this defense."
The Lions are hopeful a healthy Flowers and some key additions can make a big difference early on for their defense.