The Detroit Lions just might have something in second-year defensive end Anthony Zettel.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell wanted one of his young defensive ends to step up opposite Ziggy Ansah this season. Through the first quarter of the season, Zettel has done just that.
He recorded two sacks in Sunday's 14-7 win over Minnesota, and also recovered a fumble. He chipped in four quarterback hits and two tackles for loss as well.
"Yeah, he's been outstanding to this point," Caldwell said of Zettel. "I mean he really – he's a high motor guy that just never stops. He battles through sometimes single and double blocks if he has to. He's always coming.
"We love the way he plays and because of that kind of effort that he gives play after play after play, he's always around the ball. If it's held long enough, if coverage is good enough to keep him from holding the ball for a while, one of those guys is going to get to him. They know where Ziggy (Ansah) is obviously but I think they're going to have to start looking at (Anthony) Zettel a little bit more too."
That, would be a huge development for this defense. It's hard to chip and double-team both edge rushers. If Zettel continues to play well, defenses will start having quite the problem on their hands. Do they attack Ansah or Zettel?
"I think it's a question that chipping sometimes does affect your passing game a little bit but if you got a guy on the other side that can create problems and isn't the only one, that's really helpful," Caldwell said.
Zettel now leads the Lions with four sacks, which means he's on a 16-sack pace after one quarter of the season.
Zettel said after the game he only plays for the respect of the man next to him and across from him. Early on, he's earning it from both.
The Lions' defense continues to take the football away from opponents at a spectacular clip. They forced three fumbles and recovered all three Sunday in Minnesota, turning two into 11 points, while the other iced the game.
Detroit now has 11 takeaways in four games, and are plus-nine in the turnover ratio for the year.
"I think it's very important obviously," said Lions safety Glover Quin, who forced the final fumble on Vikings receiver Adam Thielen with less than two minutes remaining to seal the game. "Not turning the ball over on offense and being able to get turnovers defensively. Getting our offense more possessions, taking their offense off the field. If you can continue on that train and continue to do those things, you're going to give yourself a lot of opportunities to win ball games."
So far that's certainly been the case in Detroit.
Already thin at linebacker, the Lions lost veteran Paul Worrilow to a knee injury on Detroit's first play on defense. Caldwell didn't have an update on Worrilow after the game, but he didn't return.
Running back Ameer Abdullah left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, but said afterward he could have returned if needed. No big concerns there.
Right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner appeared to be dealing with some discomfort in the second half, but both played through it and finished the game.