5 Under-the-Radar Detroit Lions to Watch against Arizona

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Willie Young, DE

Aug 29, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young (79) and defensive tackle Nick Fairley (98) on the sideline during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Lions beat the Bills 35-13. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

With first-round pick Ziggy Ansah waiting in the wings, and a disappointing 2012 season fresh in everyone’s minds, it has been tempting to overlook Willie Young.

That is no longer advisable, either for fans or opposing offenses. It’s too soon to say Young has arrived, or that he’s now some sort of pass-rushing savant.  With the way he splits time with Ansah, it’s probably too soon to even suggest he’s okay in the role of a full-time starter.

What we can say is that he pushed the pocket consistently and played better-than-advertised against the run. Ansah wasn’t being held out of starting position last week because the Lions are trying to protect his fragile rookie psyche, it’s because Young is earning his spot.

Still, the rotation on the defensive line is such that starters aren’t so much the primary players as just the ones who go in first. Everyone will get on the field when the time comes, but suffice to say, Young has earned his time.

Sam Martin, P

Sep 8, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions kicker David Akers (2) and punter Sam Martin (6) recover a loose ball during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Punter Sam Martin had a roller coaster of an NFL debut, at least as much as a punter really can.

The bad (far more notable) side is that he botched a field goal hold that would have given the Lions an early lead against Minnesota. He also averaged a meager 38 yards per punt, which is far less than what Jason Hanson had in emergency duties last year.

On the flip side,  Martin has also won the job as the Lions’ kickoff specialist, and boomed five of his seven kickoffs for touchbacks (and the other two were questionable decisions, returned from eight yards deep). The Lions drafted Martin in the fifth round this year, and you don’t draft punters in any round unless you expect them to be elite.

The question for Martin now is, was that first game just an example of rookie jitters? Martin didn’t have any issues holding or kicking the football in the preseason, so maybe his shaky performance was nerve-induced, since the Appalachian State product has most likely never seen a stage quite like a packed Ford Field.

Whatever the reason for Martin’s performance against Minnesota, he has a chance to improve upon it this weekend.  If he does, you probably won’t hear about it. He is a punter, after all.