When Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin took over in Detroit, they knew they were inheriting a team filled with some special talent.
One of the players who is quickly ascending toward the top of that list is second-year defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who earned his first NFC Defensive Player of the Week award after recording 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble in last week’s win over Minnesota.
“I certainly knew who he was because everyone was kind of talking about him as an extremely raw talent that he was big and incredibly fast for his size, and then playing against him as well (last year when Caldwell was the offensive coordinator in Baltimore) you really got a sense of his presence.
“He probably was a bit more of a bull rusher when we saw him. More of a guy that would try to overpower you. I think his repertoire has changed significantly. He’s added a few to it because now he can beat you a number of different ways.”
When Caldwell faced Ansah as an opponent last year, Ansah was a rookie whose head was spinning a bit. Like all rookies, he was thinking too much.
“He doesn’t do much thinking right now,” Caldwell said. “He can react, and quickly.”
Ansah admitted in the locker room Thursday that despite the fact that he led all rookies with eight sacks last year, he was too cautious of a player.
“I’m just playing as hard as I can and going 100 miles per hour and I’m not scared to make mistakes," Ansah said. "Last year I was a little bit hesitant trying to be all cautious because you don’t want to make no mistakes and have the coaches yell at you. But this year I just let it loose. I’m having a lot of fun.”
“I was just playing (last week), I wasn’t thinking. I was just trying to do whatever I can to get to the quarterback."
Teammates are having a lot of fun watching that development.
“Ziggy has so much talent and natural ability that it’s ridiculous,” veteran
“The ball is in his court. How good does he want to be? As long as he stays hungry like he is and humble, as far as wanting to learn from each and every one of the guys that’s a little bit older than him on the d-line and wanting to stay extra and do extra stuff with coach Kris and Coach Wash(burn), he could be truly special.”
Tapp said Ansah’s biggest asset, outside of his immense physical talent, is the way he's approached the game and his craft early in his career.
“He just has a good attitude,” Tapp said. “This is nine years in so I’ve seen at least nine first-round draft picks, and he just has the mentality of guys drafted lower or not drafted at all because he doesn’t assume that he’s owed anything.
“He goes out there with the mentality that he has to earn everything. Guys like Ziggy get that this a whole different league.”
Ansah has 3.5 sacks on the season and a ton of confidence after last week.
PRATER TO FORD FIELD
Matt Prater last kicked at Ford Field in a preseason game in 2006 with the Lions, when he nailed a 28-yarder to conclude the scoring in a 20-13 win over Denver.
That was more than eight years ago, so Prater plans on familiarizing himself with Ford Field on Thursday.
“I’m going to go (Thursday) because I haven’t been there in eight years, just get a feel for the turf,” Prater said. “They redid the turf since I was here. Just get a feel of the stadium, see where the clocks are and everything.”
Will he do any kicking?
“I might kick,” he said. “I’ll be kicking field goals today here (in Allen Park), and depending on how that period goes, (will decide) whether I’ll kick. The only thing I want to do really is feel the field with the cleats on and see how it feels and get a feel for the stadium because I haven’t been there in so long.”
Prater, who made 25-of-26 field goals last year with Denver, was 1-of-3 in his Lions debut at Minnesota last week and is looking to get back to his consistent ways Sunday vs. the Saints.
VAN NOY’S FIRST PRACTICE
“He looked pretty good yesterday from the things that he did,” Caldwell said. “He moved around well. He’s been saying for quite some time that -- you have to know him -- that he’s ready to go.”
Van Noy, the team’s second-round pick in May, is on injured reserve with a designation to return. He is eligible to return to the 53-man roster during the bye week and will compete for time at the SAM linebacker spot with
Caldwell called Saints head coach Sean Payton a “riverboat gambler” of a play-caller this week. Caldwell has first-hand experience of that when Payton called an onside kick to open the second half of Super Bowl XLIV vs. Caldwell’s Indianapolis Colts.
Lions special teams coordinator John Bonamego had the same title in 2006-07 with the Saints and was an assistant special teams coach in New Orleans in 2011. He knows Payton well.
“John, in particular, in terms of our special teams, have talked about the propensity of a few things to expect that you may never see otherwise," Caldwell said.