Allen Park — In his first nine NFL seasons, defensive end Wallace Gilberry played with some top-tier pass rushers.
Now that he’s with the Lions, it didn’t take long to see that Ziggy Ansah is special, too.
“This kid here, man, he’s a different kind of animal,” Gilberry said Thursday. “I’ve been around some great guys in Tamba Hali and Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and those type (of) guys that are Pro Bowl guys. And this guy here’s special, man. He’s kind of a little mixture of all those guys.”
Hali has had three seasons with double-digit sacks during his 10 years with Kansas City. Atkins, one of the top interior rushers in the NFL, has 43 sacks in six seasons with Cincinnati, and Dunlap led the Bengals with 13.5 sacks in 2015.
Ansah had a career-high 14.5 sacks in 2015 and will try for more next season. Apparently, defensive line coach Kris Kocurek’s idea of improvement would be adding 5.5 more sacks to the career mark.
“If you ask Kris, it’s 20 sacks,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said when asked how Ansah can get better. “Just continue to improve on his pass rush techniques, get better in the run game and he’ll continue to grow. He’s got a lot of room for growth still.”
While sacks are the go-to number for pass-rush efficiency, Ansah also had a career high with 15 tackles for loss last year, an improvement from 13 in 2014 and seven as a rookie, so he’s making strides against the run, too.
“I think he’s got an unbelievable motor for a 270-pound man,” Austin said. “He plays as hard as I’ve seen a guy play. He runs; he’s tough. Those are special traits for a guy like that. A lot of times you see big guys, they take plays off. I’ve never seen the guy take a play off.”
And it didn’t take Gilberry long to see Ansah’s motor this offseason.
“You look at him and he looks like he’s dog tired, but then he’s running down the running back 30 yards down the field,” said Gilberry. “So, I’ve never seen nothing like him. I’ve watched him on tape, I’ve watched him play, I respect his game, so I’m excited to be able to line up (opposite) him and get some sacks with him.”
Unlike Gilberry, though, Austin didn’t want to make any comparisons for Ansah.
“I think he’s a fine football player in his own right,” Austin said. “I don’t want to compare him to anybody. I’m going to let him set that bar.”