It’s nowhere near a guarantee, but Lions head coach Jim Caldwell at least sounds mildly positive about getting top pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah back for Week 1.
Ansah (ankle) remains on the team’s physically unable to perform list, but according to practice reports from Tuesday, did jog around in front of reporters.
“I’m not a soothsayer. I’m not a prognosticator,” Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. “… I can’t tell the future. I can’t predict that. But I feel good about it. But anything can happen these days. You just don’t know.”
After the Lions lost Kerry Hyder for the season with a torn ACL a few weeks back, concern regarding their pass rush reached a critical level. Hyder had a team-high eight sacks a year ago, 3.5 more than Devin Taylor, who now plays for the New York Giants. Their search for a productive pass rusher may have to intensify during cut-down day when each team trims their roster from 90 down to 53. A few able bodied veterans could be on the chopping block and ripe for the picking.
The Lions have survived without a fearsome pass rush. Last year’s near-miracle playoff season featured just two sacks over 13 games from Ansah. Detroit was tied for second to last in sacks with the Cleveland Browns (26) and allowed the highest passer rating in football (106.5) over 16 games.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been tasked with remaking the identity of this pass rush post-Ndamukong Suh — a nearly impossible task for a defense that operated a certain way for so long. Developing Ansah was his best hope, and while that has not gone according to plan at times, having him on the field for a contract year certainly can’t hurt.