Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 7:58 AM

NFL Rookie Report: Ezekial "Ziggy" Ansah makes Lions defensive line elite

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As a college sophomore, Ezekiel Ansah decided to join the BYU football team. Three years and just nine college starts later, the Ghana-born defensive lineman impressed enough to be taken fifth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
Ansah now leads all rookies in sacks. Playing alongside Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, Ansah has transformed an inconsistent unit into the most talented defensive front in the NFL.
MORE ROOKIE REPORTS: Eddie Lacy | Matt McGloin | Tavon Austin | All-Bargain teamn
Here’s an excerpt from our pre-draft scouting report on Ansah:n
“After starting just nine games in his career, Ansah has a lot of work to do before he can have NFL success, and it's unreasonable to expect gaudy pass rush numbers as a rookie. He wins at this point in his career with natural strength in his lower half and elite body control. Those skill sets allow him to win initially and push blockers off balance. Able to pinch down the line as well as run in pursuit far better than most 270-pound defensive linemen, Ansah's range, pursuit and natural open-field ability is what makes his rawness to the game so difficult to believe.”
Credited with four sacks in his last two games by, Ansah has started to become more comfortable attacking off the edge and using his tremendous size, strength, and balance to collapse the pocket.
He still has plenty of room for technical development as mastering the fundamentals of the defensive end position takes longer than nine starts in college and one off-season in the NFL. However, as he was able to in college, Ansah continues to maximize his combination of size and strength to overpower and out-match most of the offensive lineman he faces.
So far this season and especially in the team’s destruction of Matt Flynn and the Green Bay Packers, Ansah has focused on staying low, delivering a powerful upfield punch, and utilizing his elite length and lower body force to consistently finish sacks when he reaches the quarterback.
Ziggy Ansah (AP Photo)n
Early in the Lions victory over Green Bay, Ansah and the Lions defense established their ability to win with just four defensive line rushers. In the play below, the Packers lead their fullback in to help protect on third down. Despite that, all four defensive linemen generate pressure off the snap. Ansah (No. 94 on the near side) bull rushes right through impressive rookie David Bahktiari, staying low as he extends his arms and drives right into Flynn for the first sack of the game.

Along with “letting him free” to attack offensive tackles on the edge, the Lions have been creative in their use of Ansah. With experience as a five-technique lineman in college, Detroit uses Ansah to play inside when they attack with a “wide-9” pass rushing approach. Thanks to his size and activeness laterally, Ansah is able to easily eat up two blockers, setting up space for the defensive ends to counter inside and open gaps for blitzers.
In the play below, notice Ansah, lined up at defensive tackle on the near side, takes on two blockers and still gets upfield, forcing Flynn to stay 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage and providing an opening for linebacker Stephen Tulloch to finish a sack on third down.
Ansah has already produced in the NFL, contributing faster than I would have imagined for such a raw prospect out of BYU. His play thus far shows why teams were willing to overlook his limited college snaps and grade him as a Top 10 pick.
He still has a ways to go fundamentally, as his hand use and body positioning still could use development. He’s not a finished product, but he’s further along than players with his limited experience.
The question is how high Ansah’s ceiling is. Playing alongside the best defensive tackle duo in the NFL, he won’t have pressure to produce each and every week for this Lions defensive line. But he’s shown already that he’s capable of doing so.

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