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Reviewing the Detroit Lions' defensive ends

4/16/2015

From now until the draft, we’re going to look at each Detroit Lions position group and where things stand as offseason workouts begin this month.

Today continues the series at defensive end.

Starters: Ezekiel Ansah; Jason Jones

Backups: Phillip Hunt; Darryl Tapp; Devin Taylor; Larry Webster; Kerry Hyder.

What the status of the position group is: Somewhat deep and somewhat stable. Ansah (pictured) is an emerging star and Jones is a stable, consistent run-stopping and gap-plugging option on the opposite side. Plus, he has the flexibility to move inside at times if the Lions need it, giving him end/tackle flexibility.

Beyond that are some questions. The Lions know what they will get from Tapp -- another good run stopper who can also play inside in a rotation. Taylor has shown flashes of being a good rush end his first two years, but hasn’t been able to get on the field consistently. Webster is a developmental project the Lions really like and could see the field this year after not playing at all as a rookie.

In losing George Johnson to Tampa Bay (but gaining a fifth round pick), the Lions now have a sneaky need for a No. 3 defensive end -- a role the Lions hope Taylor, Webster or Phillip Hunt, a journeyman the Lions signed this offseason, could fill. Taylor looked like he could have a breakout 2014 until Johnson broke out out of nowhere to have six sacks. Instead, his snaps were minimized but now they are once again there for the taking. The Lions were high on Webster, but he just couldn't crack the rotation. That opportunity is now there.

Hunt is intriguing since he had success in Canada as a pass-rusher, and if Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek can hone that focus again, Detroit is hoping he is another player who could have a Johnson-like leap this season.

What needs to happen: With the Lions losing Johnson, there is the need to adjust some things, because this is the first time Ansah, Taylor and Webster would be playing without Ndamukong Suh being a large factor on the field.

This will mean much more attention for Ansah this season despite the acquisition of Haloti Ngata. So the Lions need to prepare Ansah for that during April, May and June so he’s ready for it by the time training camp begins this summer.

Otherwise, this is one of the deepest and most stable positions on the roster.

Draft priority: Low to very low.