It appears Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah will start in his first game action in the NFL.
The Detroit Lions released their first unofficial depth chart of fall camp Monday in preparation for the team's preseason opener against the New York Jets on Friday.
Ansah is listed as the team's starter at left defensive end, the Detroit Free Press reported, though he's been playing right defensive end through most of camp.
The former BYU standout, taken by Detroit with the No. 5 pick in this year's NFL draft, is the lone rookie listed as a starter on the Lions' depth chart.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Ansah's technique is improving and he rarely makes mental mistakes, but his progress will receive a true test when the Lions play the Jets.
“It’s hard to gauge stuff in training camp," the coach said. "I think we’ll see progress when we start to get in to preseason games and we start seeing those guys play. It’s very, very difficult to rush the passer and avoid the quarterback. You’re telling guys to run as fast as they can and try to beat the offensive line, but stay away from the quarterback. It’s like telling someone to run the hundred-meter dash and stop at the finish line."
Ansah has plenty of veteran leadership surrounding him. Also on the starting defensive line for Detroit are tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, with Jason Jones at the other end position.
Suh is a fourth-year pro with 22 career sacks and is one of the top young defensive tackles in the league, while Fairley is entering his third NFL season after starting seven games last year. Jones will be on his third team in three years; his top seasons came in 2010 and 2011, when he started 28 games for Tennessee and had 66 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
Ansah is listed in front of Israel Idonije on the depth chart. Idonije is a nine-year NFL veteran — all with Chicago — who has 42 starts in the past three seasons. Schwartz said Sunday that Idonije is being slowed by a tweaked hamstring but is close to returning.
“He and Jason Jones are very much alike. They can play outside, inside," Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said of Idonije. "They don’t blink about it, they just go and play, and play well.”
Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch, an eight-year pro, compared Ansah to a young Jevon Kearse. During his 11-year career with Philadelphia and Tennessee, Kearse amassed 74 sacks, including totals of 14.5, 11.5 and 10.0 sacks his first three seasons in the league.
"Ziggy is a freak," Tulloch told DetroitLions.com. "He's a raw player but very instinctive. He can read screens very well. Runs to the ball very well. He's just a real good athlete. He reminds me of a young Jevon Kearse when Jevon was back in Tennessee. (Kearse) could just fly around. You can tell (Ansah) needs some more work, but he's definitely a good pickup for us."
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