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Teryl Austin blames injuries for Ezekiel Ansah’s inconsistent play

The Lions defensive coordinator thinks Ziggy can still be dominant if he can return to full health.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

If you were to simply look at the box score of Ezekiel Ansah’s 2017 season, it wouldn’t look all that bad. He started in 13 of 15 games so far and tallied a respectable 9.0 sacks in those games—a huge increase over his 2016 production of just 2.0 sacks.

But in seven of those 13 starts, Ansah has come up empty in the sack department and often goes games without making his presence felt at all. The majority of his sacks came in two games: Ziggy had three in both Week 2’s game against the Giants and last week against the Bengals. In the former, Ansah was lined up against one of the worst starting left tackles in Ereck Flowers; last week, Ansah was up against backup talent.

In the other 11 games, Ansah has just 27 tackles and 3.0 sacks.

But much like last year, injuries have plagued Ansah’s 2017 season. He was listed on the final injury report in all but two games in 2017, and although he has played in almost every game, he is constantly limping off the field or slow to get up.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin chalks up Ansah’s inconsistencies to those injury problems. “I think he’s not as dominant as he was, but I think that’s because of injuries,” Austin said. “I think if he’s healthy, boy, he’s as good as you can get.”

But can the Lions trust Ansah to be healthy? In 2016, an early high ankle sprain limited Ansah’s success, and in 2017 alone he’s struggled with a knee injury that kept him out of training camp, a back injury that caused him to miss a game and an ankle injury that was listed on the injury report for couple weeks.

The Lions will have to make that determination after this year when Ansah’s contract is up. Detroit could choose to franchise tag him, a move that is estimated to cost Detroit $16.9 million, but would allow the Lions to not commit themselves long-term.

Austin certainly thinks it’s possible that Ansah returns to his dominant self, but admits he’s not exactly qualified to say so. “I hope so,” Austin said in reference to Ansah returning to form. “I don’t see why not, but I’m not a doctor.”

Ansah will be one of the team’s toughest decisions this offseason. Sunday will be Ziggy’s last opportunity to show that he can still compete through all of the hardcoming and injuries he’s dealt with over the past two seasons.

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