Teryl Austin has yet to step on the field with any of his new Detroit Lions defenders.
The new Lions defensive coordinator, however, is already impressed with young defensive ends Ziggy Ansah and
Ansah, the team’s first-round selection last year, and Taylor, the Lions’ fourth-round pick from a year ago, are big, athletic edge rushers who Austin has big plans for in 2014.
Ansah, 24, led all NFL rookies with eight sacks in 14 games (12 starts) in 2013. He also forced two fumbles, defended a pass and finished with 32 tackles.
“I remember evaluating Ziggy and the big thing was he didn’t have much experience and doesn’t have this, but boy, he’s physically gifted,” Austin said at a town hall meeting for season-ticket holders Monday night. “What you saw towards the end of the year was a physically gifted man playing football.
“Now, if we can continue to improve the base and fundamentals and the techniques, all of the sudden you’re going to see that physically gifted man really become a good player. We’re excited.”
Ansah had surgery earlier this offseason to repair a shoulder injury he dealt with last year, but should be 100-percent by the start of training camp.
As for Taylor, 24, he entered his rookie season as a developmental player out of South Carolina but was thrust into the rotation starting Week 4 vs. Green Bay because of the season-ending knee injury to
Taylor played in 13 games when it was all said and done with two starts. He recorded 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and 14 tackles.
Ansah (6-5, 271) and Taylor (6-6, 266) are long, fast and rangy coming off the edge. They now have a year of experience under their belt and are able to participate in their first full NFL offseason program.
“I think Devin came back right now and is weighing a little more than he did last year, but he looks better. He’s leaner,” Austin said. We’re expecting some big things from him.
“The NFL game is a little different than college. A lot of guys come in and it takes a little while to adapt to the game because you’re not playing young guys, you’re playing men. So as they grow then you start to see improvement. I think this offseason we’ll see big improvement from he and Ziggy.”