As we start to look ahead to training camp, we're going to take a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions roster. Next up is the defensive end position. (The final year of each player's contract is listed in parentheses.)
Back from last season: Ziggy Ansah (2016+TO), Jason Jones (2015), Darryl Tapp (2015), Devin Taylor (2016), Larry Webster (2017)
New to the team: Corey Wootton (2015), Phillip Hunt (2015), Kerry Hyder (2016)
With the changes that took place this offseason with the interior part of the Lions' defensive line, the defensive ends really need to step it up this season. That mindset really starts with Ziggy Ansah, who improved quite a bit in 2014. Even so, he needs to take his game to another level in 2015, and he seems to have the potential to do that.
The Lions' other starting defensive end is Jason Jones, but that's assuming he's healthy. He recently underwent a procedure on his knee, and his status for the start of training camp is currently up in the air. The expectation is that he will at least be back for the beginning of the regular season, but anything beyond that is unclear right now.
The main backups at defensive end are likely going to be Darryl Tapp, Devin Taylor and Larry Webster. Out of this group, Webster in particular stands out as an intriguing player given how much hype he's received this offseason. We saw glimpses of his potential in the preseason last year, but he didn't even play during the regular season as a rookie. Now, though, with George Johnson off to Tampa Bay, there's an opportunity for Webster to take on a pretty significant role at defensive end.
Also at defensive end are Corey Wootton, Phillip Hunt and Kerry Hyder. If the Lions opt to keep a sixth defensive end or a spot opens up in the top five for whatever reason, Wootton is a safe bet to make the team. He can play both end and tackle, and the Lions value that kind of versatility. I suppose Hunt could also make the competition interesting at defensive end considering he has drawn comparisons to Johnson, but he will have to really impress during training camp to stick around.
Need going forward?
Given that a player like Wootton may not even make the team, the Lions seem to have a pretty good amount of depth at defensive end already. If Jones' injury keeps him out longer than expected, however, then the Lions may feel the need to make an additional move at defensive end. Then again, given what's left on the market right now, they may be better off just rolling with the players already on the team regardless of what happens with Jones.