Allen Park – The Lions had hoped defensive end Ziggy Ansah would return to form this season, an offseason removed from a high-ankle sprain that hampered him throughout the 2016 campaign. But he hasn’t been anywhere near as consistent as he was early in his career.
Yes, there’s been an uptick in sack production. Ansah has a respectable 4.0 through six games, but most of the damage was done in one game, when he abused New York Giants struggling left tackle Ereck Flowers to the tune of six tackles and three sacks.
In the five other games, Ansah has recorded just eight tackles and one sack.
Asked why Ansah is struggling, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he’d rather evaluate the defensive end’s performance at the end of the season. He also suggested that much of Ansah’s impact isn’t shown in the box score.
“Let’s talk about that at the end of the year and see where he is,” Caldwell said. “When you look at him, he’s gotten some production for us. Often times you don’t see it stat-wise, you guys look for sacks and those kinds of things, we look for disruption and assists. He has a lot of that, makes plays for us, he sets the edge for us, he does a lot of things extremely well.”
And while Caldwell is correct to suggest sacks don’t tell the whole story, Ansah’s overall disruption numbers are also significantly down. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s impacted the opposing passer 13 times on 116 pass-rush snaps, a disruption rate that ranks 48th among edge defenders. He finished second in the same metric in 2015. He also hasn’t recorded a single tackle for loss on 79 run snaps.
This is the final year of Ansah’s rookie contract. The 2013 first-round pick will be a free agent at season’s end, when Caldwell claims he’ll be more willing to discuss the defender’s performance. Quality defensive ends are among the highest-paid players in football. Simply applying the franchise tag would cost the Lions more than $17 million in 2018.