About six months ago, before the season began, I published my very first post as a staff writer for SideLion Report. In that post, I explained why I believed defensive end Ziggy Ansah would have a breakout Sophomore year. Fast forward to the 14th week of the NFL season, and it appears as if I may have underestimated the amount of impact Mr. Ansah would have in his second year as a Lion.
Over at BleacherReport.com, Jeff Risdon has already focused on Ansah’s terrific performance against the Bears last week. I’ll be reviewing the same game but focus on something slightly different.
Ansah has quickly developed into one of the better 4-3 defensive ends in the league. In terms of this year only, he may be one of the best.
Last year, Pro Football Focus had Ziggy Ansah as their 27th ranked 4-3 DE out of 52 eligible players. Through 13 weeks this year, Ansah has climbed up the rankings to the fourth highest grade. This is pretty significant considering Ansah’s slow start to his 2014 campaign.
|Overall||Run Defense||Pass Rush||Pass Coverage||Total Pressures|
In weeks 6-13, Ziggy Ansah has earned the highest overall grade among all 4-3 DEs. So what’s difference in his game?
Well, the best way to explain why Ansah’s game has taken such a leap is to take a look at three consecutive plays against the Bears last Thursday.
2nd and 9 on DET 42 (2nd Quarter, 8:32)
Ziggy Ansah explodes off the snap taking a quick jab step inside to set up an outside rush against left tackle Jermon Bushrod (#74). Ansah is freakishly good at converting speed into power, and you can see why after he gets around Bushrod with ease proceeding his initial move.
Cutler is forced to escape the pocket a little earlier than expected, but conveniently finds a wide open Martellus Bennett towards the middle of the field. Luckily for Detroit, Ndamukong Suh is a pretty good pass rusher himself, and was able to disrupt the play and draw a holding penalty.
2nd and 19 on CHI 47 (2nd Quarter, 8:09)
Ziggy lines up in what appears to be the nine-technique. Once, again he does a spectacular job of converting speed into power and decides to bull rush Bushrod directly towards Cutler.
Cutler is forced to spin away from the pocket, reset his feet, and ends up throwing an incomplete pass into tight coverage.
3rd and 19 on CHI 47 (2nd Quarter, 8:00)
So we’ve just seen Ansah pressure Cutler on two straight plays. One on an outside rush and the other on a bull rush. So what does this man have planned for us on 3rd-and-long?
How about going in untouched on an inside stunt?
Ziggy Ansah may be the hottest player at Teryl Austin’s disposal right now.
Ziggy Ansah may be the hottest player at Teryl Austin’s disposal right now. His versatility at the defensive end position is unparalleled, and he’s doing a great job of mixing up his moves.
This is something we just didn’t see consistently from Ansah last year or the beginning of this season.
Up until now, Ansah had relied mostly on his athleticism and instincts. The technique wasn’t there yet, and neither was his confidence.
Maybe all it took was for him to break out against the Vikings in week 6 for 2.5 official sacks. Ansah absolutely embarrassed Matt Kalil that day and hasn’t looked back since. Ever since then, he’s been mixing up his moves well and playing with a lot of confidence.
I’d be lying if I told you I thought Ansah would have developed this quickly. There were many that thought we would have to wait at least two years before we’d see him make any real impact.
Barring any injury, I think Ziggy Ansah will make a strong case for the Lions’ defensive MVP this year. The only thing the Lions can hope for right now is that he can stay healthy, because the way he’s playing right now, I’d be surprise to see him disappear for the remainder of the season.
*All grades and rankings are courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com’s premium content, which requires a subscription.