Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah trying to learn on the fly

Posted May 30, 2013

Ansah's athleticism has been evident through the first week of organized team activities, now it's a matter of how quickly he picks up on scheme and technique

The Lions selected Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah No. 5 overall in last month's NFL Draft with the knowledge that he'd be a little wet behind the ears when he first got on the field.
Ziggy AnsahZiggy Ansah (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Ansah's athleticism at 6-foot-5, 271 pounds has been evident through rookie mini-camp and the first week of organized team activities (OTAs).

Now in the midst of the second week of OTA practices, we can't forget that a lot of the techniques and scheme concepts defensive line coaches Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek are currently throwing at Ansah are new to him.

We did talk about how Ziggy was an inexperienced player, but he was very instinctive, you know, playing things like screens, reverses, some trap blocks and draws and things like that, that you would think an inexperienced player would struggle on," said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. "He did well on all those things.

"But our scheme is a lot different. It helped that we had him a week at the Senior Bowl. He got introduced to some of the techniques that we play, but all our rookies, their heads are spinning right now. A lot is being asked of them."

A lot will be asked of Ansah, in particular. The Lions are expecting him to start and contribute from Day 1 at a position of need in a group that the Lions have rebuilt this offseason.

"(The rookies) all thought they had it figured out (after) rookie camp, but then all of a sudden got that wakeup call to realize how far they are behind all the veteran players, the guys that have been doing this or had a full season or two or five or 10 years under their belt," Schwartz said.

"They've got a lot of catching up to do and Ziggy's the same way."

The good thing for the Lions is Ansah is smart and seems to be a quick learner. One of the reasons the team felt comfortable drafting him with their No. 1 pick last month was because of the way he picked things up under this coaching staff at the Senior Bowl.

Ansah is a fast learner, and he'll need to continue that trend. Coming off a 4-12 season, the Lions aren't in a position where they can bring along some of these rookies as slowly as they did a year ago. These guys have to make plays.

"As a defensive end, I've got to learn the defensive tackles, how to set," Ansah told last week. "I have to know what down it is and the personnel and the play and everything.

"There's a little bit of everything now. It's been really helpful to have (the veterans) guiding us through this process."

Ansah's got the athleticism that can't be taught. It's now a matter of how quickly he picks up the things that can be taught.

"I think if you asked veteran players along our defensive line, they'd always say they're working on their technique. But, I mean, he doesn't have a lot of time," Schwartz said.

"None of our rookies have a lot of time. They're not going to move our opener back because there's a rookie that's trying to get up to speed. When you're there, you're not graded on the curve. You're not graded on the rookie curve or the inexperienced player. So, there is urgency to get everything, but he's done a good job so far."