What Detroit Lions’ defender has been the most fun to watch in 2014?
For nearly the first time in over a decade, that’s a question not easily answered, as the choices are wide ranging. There’s obvious examples such as Ndamukong Suh and DeAndre Levy, the secondary choices such as James Ihedigbo and Darius Slay. Even contributors such as Tahir Whitehead could be singled out.
Interestingly, however, one man continues to generate pressure, jumping off both the stat sheet and the field into Detroit’s consciousness. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has quietly developed in a hurry, and he’s made a seamless transition to the NFL not two years in to his career. Arguably, he’s the biggest reason the Lions’ defense is playing with such an uncanny edge early on.
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In 2013, there were definite questions about the Lions drafting Ansah, a defensive lineman, with the fifth-overall pick in the draft. Defensive lineman tend to have a high bust rate historically, and Ansah was additionally risky considering his limited football background. Frankly, nobody knew what the Lions were getting themselves into.
After Sunday’s six solo tackle, one sack and one forced fumble effort, though, it’s clear Ansah is quickly on the road to becoming the next big thing in the NFL. On the season, he’s already collected 32 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. That’s mighty production at the highest level for a man who likely didn’t know anything about football much of his life.
“He’s a force when you think about a guy that has his size and height, he’s a guy that can run at that size and you see it,” Jim Caldwell said Monday afternoon on the heels of likely Ansah’s best effort of the year against Miami.
What specific tools are helping to make Ansah so special?
” (As an offensive lineman), you set for speed and often times, he’ll make you set for speed and he’ll turn it in to power,” Caldwell said, citing Ansah’s strength and ability to throw change-ups from time to time. Such a combined sequence was on display Sunday when Ansah pursued a play and hacked at Daniel Thomas, forcing the tough runner to easily drop the ball.
Plays like that are something that can turn the momentum of a game on a dime, and something that Ansah looks to be developing a gene for as he continues to learn his craft. At times, his sacks, strips and plays have raised the energy for the entire defense as a whole.
At times, (Ansah’s) sacks, strips and plays have raised the energy for the entire defense as a whole.
The speed and power combination as well as some hefty production is making Ansah perhaps the most acceptable answer to the question posed above. The best news for Lions’ fans? He’s only continuing to develop according to his coach, and can get even better this year for a defense that routinely feeds off his energy and acceleration.
“He is developing, week by week, he’s getting better,” Caldwell remarked on Ansah’s progress. “He’s got a good feel for his position at this time.”
If this is what Ansah’s development looks like, sign everybody—including Detroit’s resurgent defense—up for much, much more.