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Unsung hero of the week: Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns

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In an ugly performance from every unit of the team, one defensive player shined in a way that didn’t fill the stat sheet Thursday night.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

With the preseason coming to a close, we now have meaningful Detroit Lions football every Sunday (or Monday or Thursday) until February, and it’s a truly beautiful feeling. Before that, however, we have to assign our unsung hero of the week in a performance in which there almost was none. The series highlights one player whose performance, be it throughout the whole game or in a single moment, played an important role in the Lions’ success but may not have been the most memorable. While there are some games where only so many players shine, the objective is to give credit where it may have been forgotten.

Unsung hero of the week: Anthony Zettel

It was a bit of a surprise to see Zettel playing with the backups Thursday night, but it was a complete shock to see him play through the entire first half. That can’t bode well for his place in the defensive line rotation after starting opposite of Ezekiel Ansah all of last season. The sight worried us enough that Zettel made an appearance on this week’s bubble watch, although the POD staff voted him as “in” almost unanimously. It seems like Patricia prefers to have his linebackers (*cough cough* Eli Harold) rush the passer rather than a more natural 4-3 defensive end like Zettel.

That was the bad news for Zettel. The good news is that you could tell by his play that he didn’t belong with those backups. While he couldn’t seal the deal and wrap up Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield for a sack, it seemed like nobody on the Lions defense could. The third year defensive end still managed to toy with the Browns’ backup linemen and force Mayfield to throw away the ball on several occasions, which is about as close to a sack as you’re going to get against him.

Going into the weekend of roster cuts it doesn’t seem like Zettel should be worried. What he was doing playing Thursday night is unknown, but he made it clear by his performance that he should not have been. Given the preseason performance of other defensive linemen projected to make the roster, Zettel should be a lock. Keep an eye out for him during the regular season however, as Thursday’s status as active for the game may not bode well for his playing time in the long run.

Who do you think had a quietly good performance Thursday night? Let us know in the comments.