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NOTEBOOK: Ansah ready for any role coaches give him

It remains to be seen if Detroit Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah will be on any kind of snap count during the Lions season opener on Sunday vs. Arizona.

Ansah missed all of training camp and the preseason due to a knee injury. He returned to practice just this week in a limited capacity.

Ansah admits he might have to shake a little rust off early on Sunday, but insists he'll be ready for any role coaches will task him with. 

"It's been a while since I've been on the field, obviously," Ansah said Friday. "Yeah, there will be some rust to shake off, but I just come to work every day as hard as I can to be the best I can be on the field and just help my team win."

Finding his way to Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer Sunday will go a long way to helping Detroit secure its first win of the 2017 campaign. It's something we simply didn't see enough of last season.

Ansah dealt with a high ankle sprain and other ailments last season, which resulted in him collecting just two sacks. Though it should be noted that when he was starting to get healthy at the end of the season, Ansah recorded nine tackles, two sacks and five quarterback hits in Detroit's playoff loss in Seattle.

With Ansah clearly not himself last year, Detroit finished with just 26 sacks as a team, third fewest in the NFL.

The year prior, Ansah made his first Pro Bowl after leading the NFC with 14.5 sacks, just a half sack off the franchise record (15 by Robert Porcher). The Lions finished seventh in the NFL that year with 43 total sacks.

As Ansah goes, the Lions' pass rush typically goes.

He said pressure isn't the right word to describe what he feels about getting back to his 2015 level of performance, which would no-doubt elevate the team total as well. The Lions already lost last year's leading sacker, Kerry Hyder Jr., for the season with an Achilles injury. Veteran Armonty Bryant is suspended the first four games of the year.

"Obviously, we've lost some great talent on the d-line, no one person in the room can make up for that loss," Ansah said. "We have to come together as a collective group and work towards filling in that blank spot.

"But for me, there's no pressure. I just have to take it personal and just help my d-line and my team and do what we know how to do best."


Lions head coach Jim Caldwell finally spilled the beans on who his return men will be ahead of Sunday's season opener vs. Arizona, and they fall in line with the depth chart released earlier this week.

Second-year running back Dwayne Washington will handle kickoff return duties. The punt return responsibilities will be split, at least initially, between veteran Golden Tate and rookie cornerback Jamal Agnew.

"You'll probably see them both," Caldwell said Friday of Tate and Agnew.

Tate has plenty of NFL experience returning punts. He has 88 career returns for 936 yards (10.6 average). He's one of the most difficult players to tackle in space, so it makes sense the Lions would want him back there situationally. It's not unlike what Pittsburgh does with their No. 1 receiver, Antonio Brown.

Agnew was used on punt returns to take advantage of his 4.35 speed at San Diego. In 2016, he returned 17 punts for an average of 12.7 yards per return and one touchdown. His long return was 63 yards. He returned a punt for a touchdown in Detroit's mock game at Ford Field early in training camp.

"He's shown that he can track the ball," Caldwell said of Agnew. "Once he gets a ball in his hand, he's also got quickness and speed to add to it. He can make a guy miss and that's what you have to do, make one or two guys miss before you get in position to get to the wall, whatever it might be, or the set up in terms of the blocking. And he's shown that he has ability to do that."

Washington returned two kickoffs last year for the Lions for a 23.0 average. Last preseason, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the opener in Pittsburgh.


The first trio of captains were announced Friday for Detroit's season opener vs. Arizona: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (offense), safety Glover Quin (defense) and safety Don Carey (special teams).

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