Lions expect new leaders to emerge in 2016

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Ziggy Ansah

Allen Park — Linebacker Stephen Tulloch was the vocal leader of the defense for most of his five years with the Lions.

Rashean Mathis was the clear leader among cornerbacks the past few years. Jason Jones and Darryl Tapp were veteran presences among the defensive ends.

But, with a revamped roster comes new dynamics for different players. The Lions are fortunate to still have leaders like safety Glover Quin, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and linebacker DeAndre Levy, but Quin said younger players will have to step up to provide more leadership in 2016.

“Obviously, we lost some of the names that everybody’s familiar with as far as older guys, but you look across the board, we still have leaders,” he said.

One of the players Quin mentioned specifically Tuesday was defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who developed into the Lions’ best defensive player in 2015.

“Some of the younger guys have to take the next step,” Quin said Tuesday after voluntary workouts. “Ziggy coming off the year he had, going into his fourth year, it’s probably time to start taking that step.”

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Other players Quin suggested could grow into leaders were linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Josh Bynes, who are entering their fifth and sixth years, respectively.

Tulloch is still on the roster, but the expectation remains that he’ll be cut this offseason. Mathis retired, and Jones and Tapp are unsigned free agents. The Lions also lost one of their top offensive leaders, Calvin Johnson, to retirement.

At cornerback, Quin said Darius Slay could step into a more prominent role, especially after learning from Mathis the past three years.

Whoever steps up for the Lions, Quin said now is the perfect time for players to carve out their leadership roles.

“It’s just time for some new guys to start stepping up, and that’s what you build in the offseason,” he said. “You build it and see who’s going to step up and be a leader and who can lead. … I think we have good leadership on this team and I think we’ll be fine.”