If the Lions hope to make good on high internal expectations (at this point, it’s easier to list the players who haven’t declared that the team can win a Super Bowl), they’ll need to get a strong season from one of the most currently overlooked players on the team’s defensive line.
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah.
As explained by Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News, the Lions need a big impact from Ansah in his second season. The fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft, regarded as a project when selected, managed to rack up eight sacks in 14 games last year. If he can make a major jump in 2014, the defense — and in turn the entire team — will be much better for it.
Ansah will definitely get the opportunity to have an impact on the defense by making an impact on opposing quarterbacks. Along with other things, apparently.
“He’ll do what we’re asking our rush ends to do,” new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said during offseason workouts. “He’s going to rush. He’s going to drop. He’s going to move to different positions. He’s going to do some different things.”
With defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley entering contract years, they both have strong financial incentives to play better than ever. Which will, if it happens, resulting in greater attention being paid to them. Which will, if that happens, result in more opportunities for Ansah to face only one blocker as he gets more comfortable, and in turn possibly much more productive, at the NFL level.
While the team’s ultimate success will be driven in large part by whether it can get the most out of Joe Lombardi’s Saints-style offense, a postseason berth could result in a one-and-out showing if the defense isn’t significantly better. For that to happen, Ansah will have to be significantly better.