Trey Flowers has been on a roll the last month, playing the kind of football the Lions expected from him when they signed him to a big free-agent deal this offseason.
He’s the only defensive end in the NFL actively on a three-game sack streak. He’s recorded eight quarterback hurries over his last three games and notched 14 tackles, seven quarterback hits and five tackles for loss over that span.
“I feel as though I’m taking better advantage of my opportunities,” Flowers said this week. “Whether it’s watching more film and just kind of doing the extra things to being more in tune with the offensive linemen and things like that.”
Flowers missed all of training camp rehabbing a shoulder injury. He didn’t play in the preseason and was admittedly trying to knock some of the rust off when the regular season began.
“Anytime you can practice with repetition and get a source of confidence going into each week it always helps you as a player,” he said. “I feel as though anytime you start off the season shaking the rust off, you just want to continue to get better week in and week out and I think I’m continuing to work and get better each week.”
That’s certainly shown itself on the stat sheet over the last month or so.
Since 2017, only Flowers and Khalil Mack have recorded at least 155 tackles, 19.0 sacks and seven forced fumbles. Flowers has been back to being that kind of productive player.
He’ll have his work cut out for him this week against Dallas trying to keep his sack streak intact, however. The Cowboys have allowed 11 sacks all season, tops in the NFL.
SLAY VS. COOPER
Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper had 11 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown last week in Dallas’ loss to Minnesota. For the year, Cooper’s caught 53 balls for 848 yards and his seven touchdowns are just one behind Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay for the league lead.
Containing Cooper will be important for Detroit’s defense Sunday, and they may turn to Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay for that job.
Will the Lions travel Slay with Cooper? They have in similar heavyweight matchups vs. some of the best receivers in the game.
Slay is Detroit’s best cover corner. Opposing passers have just an 83.8 passer rating when throwing his way this year with just one touchdown.
When asked about the potential matchup with Cooper this weekend, Slay had a ton of respect for the Cowboys’ leading pass catcher.
“Either (Cooper), Davante Adams and Keenan Allen might be the best guys off the line of scrimmage,” Slay said. “I might give the nod to (Cooper) because he’s a lot more explosive than all of them. He came out as a 4.3 guy. Keenan has quick instincts, but (Cooper) is a guy that can be quick off the line of scrimmage and quicker downfield and he’s a little bit bigger. Overall, they are kind of like the same, but (Cooper) is very, very great off the line of scrimmage. Got to have great patience with him.”
Slay was added to the practice report Thursday with a neck injury, and it's unclear what that means for his availability, if anything.
Every team deals with injuries, but when it comes to Detroit’s defensive front, that unit has been a bit unlucky this season. Detroit’s played nine games and hasn’t had their full complement of players available in any one game yet.
That’s certainly not an excuse for the way the unit has played collectively this season, which is not good enough, but it has prevented them from doing some of the multiple scheme stuff upfront they thought would be available to them when training camp started.
“Defense has been the one place with the defensive line where it’s probably been the most inconsistent as far as the bodies we’ve had out there, and the different amount of variations we’ve been able to use because of that,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said this week.
“I would say that is true. I think part of that is, when those guys aren’t out there there’s a lot of time on task that’s lost. I think all that affects it. The continuity of the front is definitely affected from that aspect of it.”
Patricia hopes Hand (ankle), Romeo Okwara (groin) and John Atkins (wrist) get healthy quick. Detroit’s playing a lot of different combinations upfront and could use some more continuity the second half of the season.