Health, scheme are key components for Lions' Ansah

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Ziggy Ansah has recorded 44 sacks in five seasons with the Lions.

Allen Park — Ziggy Ansah’s long-term future with the Detroit Lions remains cloudy.

The former Pro Bowl defensive end is expected to play a significant role for the team in 2018 while operating under the franchise tag, but the two sides were unable to work out a long-term extension prior to Monday’s deadline.

“We did put the tag on Ziggy and today is the last day for the tag,” team president Rod Wood said in an interview with WJR on Monday. “He will be on the team this year and we’re looking for big things from him. Hopefully, with good health and our coach’s scheme, you’re going to see the Ziggy from two or three years ago.”

Drafted fifth overall by Detroit in 2013, Ansah delivered quick results, recording 15.5 sacks his first two seasons. In his third season, he took his performance to another level, tallying 14.5 sacks and falling just short of Robert Porcher’s single-season franchise record of 15.

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But Ansah’s past two years have been marred by injuries. Offseason shoulder surgery kept him sidelined much of the 2016 offseason and an early season high ankle sprain sapped his effectiveness, resulting in a career-low two sacks.

He labored through knee, ankle and back issues last season, leading to inconsistent play throughout the campaign. His final line was buoyed by a late-season surge, which included three sacks in each of the team’s final two games, propelling him to finish with double-digit sacks (12) for the second time in his five seasons.

Despite the durability issues, the Lions moved quickly to place the franchise tag on Ansah. Earlier this offseason, Lions general manager Bob Quinn explained how Ansah was the first item on the checklist after hiring coach Matt Patricia in February.

“Ziggy was the No. 1 conversation,” Quinn said. “I had my thoughts and I wasn’t going to take long for me to show Matt to do what we did. To have an outside edge rusher who can be as dominant as Ziggy was really appealing to Matt. Matt has had a lot of great players in New England and I think Ziggy would rank right up there with some of the best edge players that Matt has ever coached. So we’re excited to get Ziggy into this new scheme.”

The Lions have kept Ansah’s workload light this offseason, holding him out of team drills in the practices that have been open to the media. The focus, as Wood shares, is to keep the athletic edge rusher healthy.

“He’s been banged up for two years,” Wood said. “You watch the tape and he’s still making plays when he’s hurt. What people don’t appreciate, he’s generally double-teamed and sometimes, two-and-a-half guys are blocking him on every play. And he still got 12 sacks last year.

“I think if we can get him healthy, and Matt (Patricia) has some interesting ways of scheming up pass rushing  the Patriots are always in the top 10 in sacks, generally without a premier pass rusher  I think put the two together we’ll have good things this year.”

When Ansah met with local media in June, he hinted at a versatile role within Patricia’s multiple-front attack.

“We keep adding plays, each and every day,” Ansah said. “Obviously, I’m not going to be playing just one position. I will be floating around.”

Ansah, 29, will earn $17.1 million this season and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. The Lions will have the option of using the franchise tag again, but that comes with an automatic 20 percent raise, or a $20.6 million cap hit.