With Cliff Avril unsigned, Lions talk up his backup, Willie Young


Lions defensive end Cliff Avril hasn’t signed his franchise tender and doesn’t appear to be close to signing a long-term contract. But the Lions are putting out word that they think they have the right player in place as long as Avril is unsigned.

Willie Young has been working with the first string defense during minicamp and Organized Team Activities, and the Lions’ website has a story up this morning saying that Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew believes Young has been outstanding all offseason. Whether that’s simply an honest assessment of a backup making progress or a hint that the Lions don’t think they need to break the bank to lock Avril down for years to come, Young is one of the players the Lions are making a point of talking up this offseason. And Young says he’s not going to let the opportunity to play with the first-string defense go to waste.

“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” Young said. “I’m not the one who’s going to crack under pressure. Just do what I’ve been doing.”

Last year Young had three sacks during the regular season, and in the playoffs he made the Lions’ biggest defensive play of a generally dreadful performance against the Saints when he stripped the ball from Drew Brees. (The Lions probably would have scored a touchdown on the fumble recovery if the officials hadn’t wrongly blown the play dead.) Young’s playing time was limited last year because Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch both started every game, but he has looked good in limited action.

If everything goes right for Detroit this year, Young’s action will still be limited: The Lions’ Plan A is still to have Avril and Vanden Bosch as their starting defensive ends. But the presence of Young makes the Lions comfortable with their Plan B.

10 responses to “With Cliff Avril unsigned, Lions talk up his backup, Willie Young

  1. I always thought Young was a player. This has nothing to do with Avril. Mayhew draft a real gem in Young. If Cliff moves on, it’s no big deal.

  2. We Lions fans know this is not smoke or posturing; Willie Young is a beast just waiting for his chance!!!

  3. I’ve seen every snap of Avril and Young and this isn’t posturing, Young has some serious potential. He can’t break the starting lineup b/c of Avril obviously but he can play, shown flashes of wow. Make no mistake about it. Avril better check himself, Mayhew doesn’t play.

  4. Avril had a nice season, Young was productive in limited snaps, Lawrence Jackson was productive in limited snaps…..common factor, they play outside of Ndamukong Suh, who draws in most the attention. Avril you’re good, but not Julius Peppers/MarioWilliams/JaredAllen good

  5. Everyone touts Stafford, Suh, Delmas, etc. that the Lions organization has finally turned around, but, the clearest indication may be finding 7th round gems like Willie Young. That’s what championship front offices do routinely.

  6. Hell I thought Willie Young should start over KVB anyway, watch out league, if givin the chance I think Willie young could be the next Trent Cole

  7. I like both players but you have to look at value for what you’re getting. Even if Willie Young doesn’t produce as highly as Avril might, are you really going to be losing that much in performance? At least compared to cost? I am a little worried that Avril signs, gets his bonus, then slows down so he doesn’t get hurt. I’d rather have a younger Young out to prove something over a high paid Avril. Either way, I’m glad Young is gonna showcase some skill.

  8. preseason screen cap. unfair one too, solder had just signed and they started him that game after 2 practices.

  9. Young is definitely going to be pushing KVB and Avril for snaps. Had he not been injured last year, I’m sure he would have doubled his sack total of 3. He’s going into his second full offseason(I didn’t count last year cause of the lockout) and I think he’s going to be giving DC headaches this year

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