As goes the quarterback, so goes the rest of the team. It deserves to be a bumper sticker, or at the very least a bit of common knowledge for every football fan both young and old.
There’s no greater proof of this phenomenon than the 2019 Detroit Lions: a team on the brink through eight games last season because of some absolutely stellar quarterback play from Matthew Stafford.
The final eight games of the season? Not so much.
Which leads us to today’s Question of the Day:
Which non-QB performance would most help Detroit make the playoffs in 2020?
There are a few analytical measuring sticks out there these days that aim to place a value on NFL players. There’s Pro Football Focus’ “PFF War” statistic and there’s Pro Football Reference’s “Approximate Value” just to name a couple of the measures out there aimed to determine just how good a player is on the field. This might come as a shock to you, but these methodologies in grading a player’s value tend to reveal just how important quarterback play is to a team’s success.
Let’s look further. Further than the obvious answer that is Matthew Stafford. Further than any projections. Let’s look at the Lions roster to determine which player—outside of Stafford—most helps this team playoff bound whenever NFL football is played again.
The Lions have plenty of talent at the skill positions. Whether it’s budding superstar Kenny Golladay at wideout, everyone’s favorite breakout candidate for Year Two—T.J. Hockenson, or someone out of Detroit’s backfield, there’s enough talent there for the Lions to be multi-dimensional and lethal week in and week out.
For my answer, I’m going to look at the defensive side of the ball, and at another position that comes at a premium in today’s NFL: the EDGE defender.
Trey Flowers is someone who, over the course of his first eight games in Detroit, slowly built the trust of Lions fans. While his raw numbers in categories box-score vultures love to circle like sacks weren’t particularly impressive, his play improved noticeably from week to week.
Going forward, Flowers is the Lions premier talent on defense, and the player most vital to the team’s success in helping defend both the run and pass. He’s the highest paid player on the team not named Stafford. For his side of the ball, he’s a vital piece for Matt Patricia’s defense, and that’s why they handed him $90 million over five years to come to the Motor City.