Anthony Zettel dug his hand in the dirt, twisted his cleat into the turf to get the proper footing, and at the first movement of the football he was gone, right around left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and into the backfield in a one-on-one drill.
Zettel, the second-year defensive end out of Penn State, has been a bright spot on Detroit's injury-riddled defensive line early on in Lions training camp.
Injuries to Ziggy Ansah (PUP), Armonty Bryant (PUP) and Cornelius Washington (ankle) have given young players like Zettel an opportunity to play significant reps and impress coaches early in camp. For Zettel, that meant first-team reps opposite Kerry Hyder Jr. in the first padded practice Tuesday.
"I think (the coaches) have a lot more trust in me," Zettel said after practice. "I think I have a lot of skills I can bring and I'm just excited to go out there and show them what I can do with the opportunity."
Zettel spent much of his offseason in Pittsburgh, where he lived with Steelers tight end Jesse James, a former teammate at Penn State. They trained together with other NFL players like Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny and Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee.
"Physically, even during the spring he came back from the winter break in great physical condition," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Zettel. "He's working at it all the time. He's trying to take care of all the little things, so, we see some improvement already, so, we'll see what happens when we get into ball games."
Zettel was inactive the first two weeks of his rookie season last year, but started carving out a reserve role Week 3. He ended up playing in 13 games and finished with 13 tackles and a sack.
Heading into his second season, Zettel is now physically where he wants to be and mentally very comfortable in Teryl Austin's scheme. Because of that, Zettel should have much more of an impact this upcoming season. He was among the names general manager Bob Quinn mentioned this offseason when asked about his comfort level with Detroit's edge rushers following the draft.
"I think (the Lions) are counting on me more this year," Zettel said. "They have a lot more trust in me. I came in shape this offseason, and I'm ready to go at it this year and I'm excited to take a bigger role."