After sitting out the majority of practices the past few weeks, as well as Detroit's preseason opener in Indianapolis, right guard T.J. Lang made his preseason debut last Saturday against the New York Jets.
Lang played three offensive series (18 snaps total), giving the Lions their first game-action look at the offensive line that's expected to start the regular season in just 20 days. Lang was solid in his debut, not allowing a single quarterback pressure or hit, and doing some nice things in the run game.
"I felt pretty good," Lang said Monday. "Good start. It wasn't as clean as I was hoping it would be, but I think that's pretty common first action back in the preseason. Guys are still working on some things and improving and I'm no different."
Most importantly, Lang and the rest of the starters came out of his first preseason game healthy. After undergoing surgery earlier in the offseason to fix a lingering hip injury he played through in Green Bay, Lang says it's certainly been different this year being pain-free in camp.
"Yeah, I think I've said it, it's the first camp in a while that I've felt pretty good health-wise," he said. "I'm always going to have some small things I have to stay on top of, maintenance-wise, but overall health, it feels great. Looking forward to adding a little bit more, week by week, and hopefully being full speed pretty soon."
Lang is expected to get more work in this week's regular-season tune-up at Ford Field against the Patriots. Typically, starters play at least the first half in the third preseason game.
"We really haven't talked about playing time yet, but I'm hoping I can at least get in there for the first half," Lang said. "This week is all about simulating what goes on during the regular season — everything throughout meetings, practice, schedule — kind of getting to more game planning. It's going to be a big week and I'm hoping I can be in there."
Lang, right tackle Rick Wagner and left tackle Greg Robinson are all new to Detroit's line this season. With Lang missing so much time in camp as the Lions ease him back from surgery, the line is still very much in the chemistry-building phase. Lang said the more the merrier in terms of snaps they can get together on Friday.
"I feel good and ready to play. I'm ready to cut it loose," he said. "Obviously, we've been pretty smart here the first couple weeks, but the closer we get to the season, I think now is the time you have to start ramping it up even a little bit more, making sure we're ready to go physically and mentality by Week 1."
ANSAH GETTING CLOSER TO RETURN?
Ziggy Ansah was spotted Tuesday off to the side of practice doing some light running in front of trainers. He's been out watching practice all throughout camp, but this is the first time he did some physical activity during the open portion.
He remains on Detroit's PUP list, but Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin offered a bit of hope Ansah would be ready to go by the start of the regular season in 20 days.
"I'm no soothsayer, I'm not a prognosticator," Caldwell said. "I can't tell the future, I can't predict that. But I feel good about it, but anything can happen these days. You just don't know."
Ansah dealt with a high ankle sprain and other ailments most of last season, and saw his sacks drop from 14.5 in 2015 to just two a year ago. As a result, the Lions had just 26 sacks last year, second-fewest in the league.
"The reports we get I guess are going to be good and nothing out of the ordinary," Austin said. "Letting it heal and take our time, and when we get him back, we get him back."
CHANGE OF PACE
Austin is hoping some of the new additions up front along his defensive line will allow him to sometimes throw a changeup at opposing offensive lines.
"We have Haloti (Ngata) and A'Shawn (Robinson) and then you come back with a (Akeem) Spence and a Jordan (Hill). In terms of the way they operate in the skill set, totally different blocking," Austin said.
"It's almost like when you're guarding a speed receiver, then you come up against a guy who's a better route runner. Two different things as a defensive back, how do I adjust to that? And that's going to be the same thing with offensive lines."
Austin described the situation as "unique," and believes it will allow him to attack opposing offensive lines in a number of different ways.
Both Spence and Hill were very active last week against the Jets, and showed an ability to beat blocks and play in an opponent's backfield.
"They're very active, very quick," Austin said of Spence and Hill. "Doing a really good job in terms of getting off blocks, making plays. So, we're pleased with the new guys we've brought in."
Players still on PUP: DE Ziggy Ansah, T Taylor Decker and T Corey Robinson
Players still on NFI: P Sam Martin
Not practicing Tuesday: TE Eric Ebron, WR TJ Jones, T Cyrus Kouandjio, LB Thurston Armbrister, WR Dontez Ford, WR Noel Thomas, WR Dez Stewart and CB Adairius Barnes.