Oct 6, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) prepares to throw the ball Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young (79) defends during the third quarter at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 22-9. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Young’s production is a lot like that of Ndamukong Suh. He hasn’t gotten there very often for full sacks, but Pro Football Focus (PFF) credits him with 26 QB hurries this season, including at least one per game. He’s even improved his play against the run. Young is doing what many thought he couldn’t: playing at a quality level as a starter.
Young’s presence in the defense became much more important when the Lions lost Jason Jones to an early-season injury. He hasn’t been an obvious difference-maker every week, but he’s holding his own in a role once thought to be beyond him. He’s more than just a pass-rush specialist, and he’s proving he has a future in this league, whether with the Lions or not.
Young was expected to carry the same role in 2013 as he had throughout his career — a speed rusher used exclusively in obvious pass-rush situations. Now he’s being used as a full-time starter, and while he isn’t a breakout star, he also isn’t a disaster.
I’m not sure the Lions necessarily want Young as a long-term starter, but it seems they could do much worse. He’s been good, and still has room to get better. Pro Football Focus has Young graded +2.9 overall on the season, by far the best of all the Lions’ defensive ends.