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2018 training camp preview: Defensive end

On the roster: Ziggy Ansah, Kerry Hyder Jr., Anthony Zettel, Cornelius Washington, Jeremiah Valoaga, Alex Barrett, Cam Johnson

Key losses: None

Making the cut: Ansah, Hyder Jr., Zettel, Washington

On the bubble: Barrett, Valoaga, Johnson

Table inside Article
Player Games Tackles Sacks QB hurries QB hits
Ziggy Ansah 14 44 12.0 19 7
Anthony Zettel 16 43 6.5 31 5
Cornelius Washington 15 24 2.5 20 8
Kerry Hyder Jr. 0 0 0.0 0 0
Jeremiah Valoaga 9 5 1.0 3 3
Alex Barrett 2 1 0.0 0 0
Cam Johnson 0 0 0.0 0 0

(QB hurries and QB hits stats provided by Pro Football Focus)

Best competition: How do the Lions split up playing time?

The Lions' defense in 2018 is quite different than what we’ve seen over the years, which makes it harder to predict how the rotation will go, and how the coaches will split up playing time along the edge.

In the 3-4 looks we’ve seen from the Patriots over the years we've typically seen an alignment of defensive end, nose tackle and defensive end as the three down linemen. Size is usually coveted among the defensive ends in more of a two-gap concept.

But because this is expected to be such a multiple-front defense, we’re likely to see some elements of a 4-3 as well. Players like Ansah and Washington, in particular, could play both inside and outside. We could see Ansah stand up and float around from a two-point stance in certain instances.

Hyder and Zettel got quality time in OTAs and minicamp on the edge, but Ansah wasn’t a full participant as he was still rehabbing from injury. How does that change when Ansah is full go?

There’s still a lot of question marks surrounding this position and how it will be utilized in head coach Matt Patricia and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni’s scheme, which will make training camp and the preseason all the more interesting to watch.

Twentyman’s take: What I like about the small sample size I’ve seen from this defense so far is that there’s very few defined roles and positions for players, especially upfront. This defense requires versatility, and we could see players line up anywhere from the seven technique to nose tackle to being in a two-point stance, all depending on what scheme they’re deploying that play, series or week.

Be prepared for things to look very different on that side of the ball. The good thing about Ansah, Hyder, Zettel and Washington is that they all have good size (270 pounds and up) with versatile skill sets. That gives Patricia and Pasqualoni the ability to use them all over the line in different techniques. Don’t be surprised if we see that early on.

If Hyder returns as the same player he was in 2016 before the Achilles injury last year, the Lions appear to have pretty good depth along the edge.

By the numbers:

8: Sacks recorded by Ansah the second half of last season. No other player in the NFL had more.

31: Quarterback hurries for Zettel last season, which led the Lions, per Pro Football Focus statistics.

35: Team sacks for the Lions in 2017, which ranked 20th in the NFL. The defensive ends accounted for 22 of those (Ansah had 12.0).

Quotable: “Knowledge. Being a smart football player,” defensive line coach Bo Davis said this offseason on what it takes to be a multiple front defensive lineman. "That’s what it takes. It’s not you have to have a certain tool, but just have knowledge of the game and have a good understanding of the game to be able to do that.”

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