Those who recently returned from watching the Detroit Lions’ training camp in Allen Park got to see plenty of freshman phenoms, but there was a consistent notable lack of one expected super sophomore.
Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was held out of most camp activities, and hasn’t played a single down of the preseason. Friday, the Lions could use him against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game which should see starters getting the most action they should expect to get in exhibition.
Regardless of how healthy he may be, Ansah, though, shouldn’t be on the field for long. Detroit badly needs to keep their prize healthy and on track for the regular season, and any extended play could put him at risk for a setback in his recovery.
Up to this point, the Lions have been extremely smart not to risk Ansah much at all. It’s a fine line between getting a player repetitions and risking health. Ansah should see a few series against Jacksonville, but nothing excessive, nor nothing too strenuous.
Ansah was one of the best young defenders in the league during the 2013 season. In his rookie campaign, the BYU product racked up eight sacks, 32 tackles and two forced fumbles. Considering the lack of elite depth at defensive end, the Lions need the best body they have not at risk to miss any regular season action.
Besides, in Ansah’s absence, Detroit has other options that need extended looks at defensive end for creation of a quality rotation’s sake. Fellow sophomore Devin Taylor needs work, and rookie George Webster has been fantastic early on. Also getting a look? Veterans Darryl Tapp and Jason Jones, both of whom have played well. All these players are excellent in a rotation, but without Ansah as the heartbeat, it could be rough sledding for whatever amount of season games he’d need to miss.
For that reason, count on the Lions to remain as smart as they have looked with Ansah’s recovery during the offseason. Expect him to play marginally Friday, but see less time in the end than many other starters who are hitting the preseason stride. That will be by design, so there’s no need to panic about his recovery timetable. Everything looks to be on schedule.
For a youngster that appears to have a very bright future with Detroit’s defensive line unit, that’s very good news indeed.