Lions’ Trey Flowers looks to grow in coverage skills with new defensive role

Detroit News

Allen Park — If there’s one player who embodied the Patriot Way more than any other during coach Matt Patricia’s tenure in Detroit, it was defensive end Trey Flowers.

Flowers is a no-nonsense guy who is all about football, is a perfectionist with his fundamentals and can be relied upon to do his job, play in and play out. So when Patricia and his staff were broomed out by the Lions after three years, it has been interesting to see how the new regime has seemed to embrace Flowers as part of the vision.

“I think that’s just a testament to my character,” Flowers said. “I’m a guy that prides himself on high character. I do the things the right way and I just respect the game. With any team, you’re still going to get that same Trey Flowers that respects the game (and) works hard, puts the team first type of guy.

“My character is not based on who I’m doing it for. My character is based on the principles I grew up on. It don’t matter who’s the head coach, who’s the GM as far as where I’m at, you’re still going to get a high-character guy that represents himself in the highest regards.”

What is changing for Flowers is his role within the defense. He’s being looked at as an outside linebacker in the new scheme, and while he’ll still primarily rush the passer, he’ll also be dropping into coverage more than he has in recent years.

“I’ve dropped back, but it probably hasn’t been as emphasized as it is now,” Flowers said. “It’s something new to learn, so I’m eager to learn it.

“You got a lot of moving parts, people kind of moving around out there. When you got one job, you got a hand in the dirt, you got one focus, that’s the easy part, what I’m used to. When you get out there and you got guys moving, you got different type of route combinations — it’s just one thing that you kind of, for me I guess, I gotta just (narrow) my focus, pay attention to one particular thing to make it easier for me.”

Well of knowledge

In Green Bay, quarterback Tim Boyle was seen as something of a human victory cigar due to his recurring role of entering late during blowouts to take a couple knees and run out the clock.

But even though he never had a realistic shot of overtaking Aaron Rodgers on the team’s depth chart, the experience of playing with the reigning MVP was an invaluable one for Detroit’s new backup.

“Man, there’s a list of things I’ve learned from Aaron,” Boyle said. “I think two things I’ll touch upon: a physical part of it and a mental part. I think, physically, just the way he gets through his progressions and his feet. He’s very foot-driven in making sure his timing is good with receivers.

“And understanding how he sees the game. When you’re around someone elite like Aaron Rodgers, you always want to pick their brain and ask those questions, and he was awesome to me in making sure he understood what he was seeing. So I see the game a little differently now being around him.”

In Detroit, Boyle sees another opportunity to build upon that mental understanding of the game while working under assistant coach Mark Brunell, who played 19 years in the NFL.

“He’s got so much excitement, so much love for the game, and I think it’s cool because I think he can relate to us as quarterbacks,” Boyle said. “Playing, obviously, that many years in the league, having that much experience and success, he understands what we see back there, so he’s able to talk to us in meetings and understand because he’s seen it all. He’s been through it all, every game, every snap, every coverage. He’s had so many reps, so he’s a wealth of knowledge for all three of us quarterbacks.”

As for Rodgers’ strained relationship with the Packers, Boyle didn’t want to delve too much into things just like running back Jamaal Williams, another former teammate who is now with the Lions. What Boyle was willing to say is whatever frustrations Rodgers may have had with management last season, it never showed.

“He’s a great teammate, a great role model and a great leader for that team,” Boyle said. “It’s going to be interesting what happens here, but I hope it works out for both parties.”

Training day

Growing up in the St. Louis area, Lions punter Jack Fox grew up a fan of Johnny Hekker, the Rams longtime punter who has been named an All-Pro four times during his decade in the NFL.

Fox, who didn’t get serious about punting until high school, always thought it would have been cool to get an opportunity to work out with Hekker during those years. With that in mind, Fox put out an offer on Twitter last month for Detroit youth to train with him this offseason.

“Yeah, I got a bunch of feedback,” Fox said. “I got a lot of high school kids. I got some college kids and then a few middle school kids. I’m actually doing my first little training thing this Sunday. This Sunday afternoon I have about 15 high school kids that reached out and we got them all in a group together. We’ll see how many show up, but at least 10 will be there. I’m sure it will be fun and (I’m) looking forward to it.”

Fox, 24, is coming off a Pro Bowl season where he set the franchise records for both gross (49.1 yards) and net (44.8 yards) averages. For his encore, he said he’s focusing on refining his game, particularly punts near midfield, so that he can avoid so many touchbacks that can put a dent in his net average.

He has also focused on improving his holding, which he feels might have contributed to some of Matt Prater’s field-goal struggles last season. Prater departed in free agency this offseason and Fox has been working with the team’s two long snappers and two kickers during camp. He believes the variety is only helping to sharpen his holding.

“I’ve worked on being more perfect in the holding,” Fox said. “I’ve kind of changed like my position holding — I’m more on the side now. Really just making sure I get the ball however Randy (Bullock) and Matt (Wright) like it. I have two kickers, so I kind of need to know how each guy likes it, just being precise in that area.”

Practice report

The Lions were a little more shorthanded during their second minicamp practice as cornerback Jeff Okudah, defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike, wide receiver Damion Ratley and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin joined the trio of Austin Bryant, Jerry Jacobs and Derrick Barnes that had been sidelined a day earlier.

Reeves-Maybin exited Tuesday’s practice with a minor heel injury, while Bryant is also dealing with a minor injury issue that isn’t expected to impact his status for next month’s training camp, according to coach Dan Campbell.

A fourth-round pick in 2019, Bryant has missed extensive time due to injury each of his first two seasons, appearing in just 10 of a possible 32 regular-season games.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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