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Injuries along d-line could mean increased role for Zettel

Anthony Zettel already figured he'd be playing a little bit bigger role along Detroit's defensive line in his second season. That role, however, appears to have gotten more significant after Sunday's preseason opener.

Kerry Hyder Jr. suffered an Achilles injury that is likely to end his 2017 season. That means Zettel should see his role increase even more. The next few weeks will determine if it's as a potential starter opposite Ziggy Ansah, or at the very least, a key part of the rotation.

After Sunday's win in Indianapolis, Zettel already seemed to realize that more will be expected of him now.

"Yeah, I'm not going to overload myself to where I'm thinking too much and stuff, where it'll take me out of what I've been doing," he said. "But, I know I have a bigger role and I just want to play for these guys and play for Kerry, because they would do it for me."

Zettel came into training camp in tremendous shape, and has been a bright spot on Detroit's injury-riddled defensive line early on.

Injuries to Ziggy Ansah (PUP), Armonty Bryant and Cornelius Washington have given Zettel an opportunity to play significant reps and even start in Sunday's preseason opener opposite Hyder.

He played 25 snaps on defense, and delivered a huge hit on Colts running back Robert Turbin for a 1-yard loss. He also had a quarterback hit.

"From what we've seen overall ... he's doing things that he's supposed to do and making some plays as a result of it," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Zettel's performance after Sunday's game.

A sixth-round pick last season, Zettel carved out a reserve role starting Week 3. He ended up playing in 13 games and finished with 13 tackles and a sack.

He's entered the offseason training program and camp more physically and mentally prepared to play a bigger role in his second season, and it's showed in the first two weeks of camp.

"I'm more confident in myself and the defense and I just feel a lot looser out here like I can play the game," Zettel told after Sunday's game.

After the unfortunate injury to Hyder, the Lions need someone to step up. It seems like in each of the last three seasons an under-the-radar pass rusher has emerged to play a key role for the Lions.

Could it be Zettel this year?

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