Believe it or not, NFL teams will take the practice field for training camp in just a matter of weeks. While the Detroit Lions will have many new players to become acquainted with, a handful of familiar ones will be under a heightened level of pressure as the team embarks on a new era.
Almost across the board, expectations for the Lions’ upcoming season are low. Very low. It’s not surprising, considering the level of upheaval that the team experienced this offseason. Fresh faces occupy some of the franchise’s most important positions, and a number of holdover players will have even more to prove as they look to cement their long-term futures in Detroit.
This list is comprised of high-capital players, either high draft picks or expensive free agents, all of whom were acquired by the former regime. Naturally, a new front office and coaching staff will look for their preferred type of players to fit their vision. That can often exclude even the kind of high-profile contributors as the ones found here.
So which Lions will be under the most scrutiny this season? Here are our top four, starting with a player who will likely be changing positions…
Position: Defensive End/Linebacker
2020 stats: 7 games played, 2.0 sacks, 22 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles
Flowers was one of the most sought-after free agents in the Spring of 2019. With the Lions’ previous regime’s ties to his former team, the New England Patriots, and a tantalizing offer with over $50 million in guaranteed money, it was a fit. It hasn’t gone that well, however.
Flowers was solid in 2019, but the Lions still managed just three wins. Then in 2020, he was limited to just seven contests due to an arm injury. Now, with a new coaching staff, Flowers will have to adapt to a new scheme essentially for the first time in his professional career.
He will also likely be playing a different position. New defensive line coach Todd Wash mentioned this past spring that Flowers, along with co-defensive lineman Romeo Okwara could see plenty of snaps at outside linebacker. Is Flowers up to the task?
Needless to say, the Lions have not gotten their money’s worth since they made Flowers one of the highest-paid defensive players in the NFL at the time of his signing. While he’s not on the level of some of the previous decision-makers’ other free agent flops, he could reach that dubious platform should he fail to make a strong transition this fall.
Simply put, the Lions’ defense hasn’t been good when Flowers has been on the field, and it’s been downright awful with him off of it. Another underachieving season from him would likely be his last in Detroit; he represents just over $12 million in dead money after 2021. Stay tuned.