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Does Ezekiel Ansah have a future in Motown?

Oft-injured Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has only appeared in one game since being franchise tagged, leaving a big question mark about his future.

A 2013 first-round pick out of BYU, defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was primed to be a long-term star for the Detroit Lions. The player that has lead his team in sacks in three of his first five seasons in the NFL was set to be a free agent heading into the 2018 offseason. That was until the Lions placed the franchise tag on Ansah this offseason, signing him for one more year.

Coming off a 12.0 sack season last year, Ansah was ready to prove that he was worth his new $17 million deal in the 2018 season. The expectations couldn’t be higher for Detroit’s star defensive lineman.

The 29-year-old defensive end has recorded 211 tackles and 45.0 sacks in his six seasons for the Detroit Lions. This kind of production looks good at first glance, but there’s more to these numbers.

In the 2017 season, Ansah recorded 12.0 sacks, but 9.0 of those sacks occurred in just three games. Ziggy performs at an elite level at times, but has many games where he is a non-factor on defense.

Ansah is the most talented member of this defensive line, but injuries have made his play inconsistent at best. This season, he appeared in the Week 1 opener against the New York Jets, tallying one sack and four tackles. Since then, Ansah has been inactive for every game. The Lions pass rusher has now missed 12 games in his six NFL seasons due to injury.

For several seasons, Ansah was the main force behind the Lions pass rush, with not much help from his teammates. Defensive ends Kerry Hyder and Anthony Zettel showed some flashes of talent, but never had consistency when it came to rushing the passer or defending against the run. Now, one of those players has been inactive for half of the games this season (Hyder) and the other was waived after Week 1 (Zettel).

After bringing in head coach Matt Patricia and his staff this past offseason, the Lions went through a major overhaul on defense. Defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand was drafted in the fourth round and has become a rising star in Detroit.

In free agency, linebacker Devon Kennard, defensive end Romeo Okwara, and defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois were brought in and became instant contributors for the pass rush. The Lions also made trades for linebacker Eli Harold and defensive lineman Damon Harrison.

All of these new additions to the defensive group have made Ansah expendable. During his absence due to injury, Detroit’s defense has recorded at least 2.0 sacks a game. This kind of production shows that the former pro bowler may be playing his final season as a Lion.

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If Ezekiel Ansah can bounce back from his injuries, he could help improve this surging defense even more. If not, it seems that the Detroit Lions have found some young pass rushers who can replace him. The youth movement on the defensive line has paid off big for Detroit with players like Harold, Okwara, and Hand. With some big acquisitions through the draft, trades, waiver claims, and free agency, Ansah may be on the outside looking in.

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