Monday, January 27, 2014
Lions position outlook: Defensive ends
By Michael Rothstein
A coach has been hired. A staff is being filled out. The Detroit Lions' offseason and planning for the 2014 season is officially here.
To start that process, we will look at each position group over the next two weeks, analyze what worked and what didn’t before projecting what could happen between now and training camp in 2014, which is only a mere seven or so months away.
Today the series continues with defensive ends.
Previous positions: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide receivers; Tight ends; Offensive tackles; Interior linemen.
2014 free agents: Willie Young, Israel Idonije
The good: Ziggy Ansah was drafted as somewhat of a question mark in the first round and turned into a better-than-expected surprise throughout the season. He led all rookies and the Lions in sacks with eight. Ansah also showed some strength against the run. Devin Taylor played well in spot duty, notching 2.5 sacks and forcing two fumbles in his rookie year. Young, a free agent, also had a good season. He was particularly strong against the run and had career highs in tackles (47) and fumble recoveries (2).
The bad: Jason Jones was brought in as a free agent to play opposite Ansah. He was lost for the season during the Washington game with a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee, missing the final 13 games. Idonije came in, but didn’t do much. He had 11 tackles in 15 games, but provided a veteran presence to a mostly-young group. As a group, considering former Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham chose not to blitz often, they did not sack the quarterback enough.
The money (using 2014 cap numbers from Roster Management System): The Lions have three defensive ends under contract heading into this season. Ansah, last year's first-round pick, will have a cap number of $4,226,023. Jones is due $3,683,333 against the cap. Taylor is due $570,146 against the cap. Detroit will also likely sign or draft at least one other end.
What Jim Caldwell might favor: Caldwell was all over the place when it came to defensive ends, although he clearly preferred speed rushers on the outside with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney -- both of whom were defensive ends under Caldwell before converting to outside linebackers. Ansah and Taylor, in some ways, can fit a similar mold.
Potential cuts: With only three players at the position, it would be pretty difficult to see the Lions cutting any of the ends they have under contract. With no defensive ends on the practice squad at the end of this past season, the likely only cuts would be players they bring in to camp.
Draft priority: Decent. Tough to see the Lions going after a defensive end early in the draft, but if there is someone they like in the mid-to-late rounds, they could pick another end up there. The Lions have had good success drafting ends in the mid-to-late rounds the past few years in Taylor and Young.
Numbers in this post were culled from ESPN Stats & Information and Roster Management System.