The Evolution of Effort: Ezekiel Ansah Continues to Improve

The Evolution of Effort: Ezekiel Ansah Continues to Improve

Nick Kostora (@nickkostora) is the co-host of Detroit Lions Radio, you can find a link to his latest show below. He’s also a weekly guest writer at the Lions Barroom. Today, he sets his focus on the evolving Ezekiel Ansah

Ezekiel Ansah has evolved into one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL.

This is not hyperbole or mindless offseason chatter. Rather, it is the result of steady refinement and technical improvement to the incredible natural ability Ansah has displayed throughout his young career.

Simply look at how much of an unknown Ansah was in 2013, as he entered the draft out of Brigham Young University.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock described Ansah in the following terms:

“He never came to football until 2010 as a walk-on. He was not even on NFL teams’ radars. He wasn’t even on their scouting lists. He’s a boom-or-bust candidate. I love the kid. Three years from now, he’s an All-Pro or he’s on the streets, and I don’t mean that negatively.”

It’s fair to say Ansah trended towards the former rather than the latter.

Most of us who follow the Lions have heard Ansah’s collegiate story, how he went to BYU on an academic scholarship, decided to run track and play basketball and then stumbled into football, a sport he had never played at all growing up in Ghana.

The raw athleticism of the then 6’5”, 271-pounder was evident from the beginning, but what is most interesting is how he’s developed his game since entering the pro ranks.

Ansah’s development hasn’t always been as fast as his ability to get into the backfield. In his first year (and into his sophomore campaign) it was clear that Ansah was going to try to win at the point of attack by simply powering through offensive linemen, regardless of their size or quickness. After all, it had worked to great success at BYU, and Ansah didn’t have a great set of finesse moves at his disposal, or much of any set for that matter.

Still, his rookie season showcased more than glimpses of what he could become, as proven by his eight sacks. The fact that his sack total dipped to 7.5 in his second year was not much cause for concern, as he drew more consistent attention from opposing offensive lines, and his total tackles nearly doubled.

His numbers last year are even more impressive, seeing as he recorded 14.5 sacks and was by most accounts a destructive force of nature, even without the benefit of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley occupying traffic at defensive tackle.

[graphiq id=”1s7SmNvYZA9″ title=”Lions Barroom – Ezekiel Ansah Career Sacks” width=”640″ height=”556″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/1s7SmNvYZA9″ link=”http://football-players.pointafter.com/l/489/Ezekiel-Ansah” link_text=”Lions Barroom – Ezekiel Ansah Career Sacks | PointAfter” ]

Ansah is coming into his own as a technician and multi-faceted wonderment at defensive end just as his body is reaching its physical peak. He has developed those aforementioned finesse moves, and is now just as likely to utilize a speed rush off the edge as he is to bully an offensive tackle into submission.

Ansah was Detroit’s clear No.1 defensive linemen last season for the first time in his young career and he flourished, both in his dominant performance and his ability to showcase leadership through sheer unadulterated determination on the field.

Who is soon to forget Ansah chasing Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson 75 yards down the sideline in a successful attempt to prevent a touchdown?

Ansah won defensive MVP for his performance in that game, and his defensive line coach, Kris Kocurek told the Detroit Free Press just how impressive it was, saying “When we get young guys in here, you got to be tough on them, so I was tough on him that week. I just wanted to see how he reacted to it. You never know. Some guys go into a shell, and some guys can’t handle it. He handled it and didn’t say anything.”

Ansah continues to handle it heading into the 2016 season, when his importance to the Lions success or failure is only going to become more apparent.

Perhaps Ansah can be a role model for rookie defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, displaying the type of effort and drive on every single play in practice and in games that has been questioned in the Alabama product.

Regardless, at 27 years old, Ansah has become a complete package at defensive end. A player who can overpower, outsmart, and outmaneuver opponents at will.

If there is a next step in his evolution, it could truly be scary.

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Have you heard the latest episode of Nick’s podcast, Detroit Lions Radio? If not, the link is below. The show is a fascinating look into the art of scouting football players with Jeff Risdon who, last year alone, scouted over 400 players.

The Art of Scouting with Jeff Risdon

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