clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ziggy Ansah sacked his way to a huge pay day this year, and you probably didn’t even notice

New, comments

The Lions DE is headed for free agency after a strong finish to the season. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White named him Hoss of the Week.

NFL: DEC 31 Packers at Lions Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A couple of years ago Ziggy Ansah appeared to be destined for greatness. In 2015, his third year in the league, Ansah had a breakout season with 14.5 sacks, and the evolution of his game had him looking like a potential perennial All-Pro. That year he showed that he could be the kind of game-plan wrecker that opposing offensive coordinators would have to account for, and even then they still might not have been able to neutralize him.

I predicted Ansah would make a huge leap that season. By the end of that season, even with him putting up those big sack numbers, I actually thought Ansah still had plenty of room to grow, which was kind of scary. The fact that he was so athletic while also being quite powerful at 6'5 and 275 pounds was already damn near unfair. It was the fact that Ansah's technique had steadily improved after getting to the league, but still had room for further refinement, that had me thinking the sky was still the limit for this guy. I felt like if he could keep adding more tools to his tool box, Ansah just might end up being one of the best defensive players the game has ever seen.

But then came the injuries.

Fuck injuries, man.

For real.

Ansah had to deal with a high ankle sprain damn near all of last season and he just wasn't the same guy. He only managed to notch two sacks in 13 games and both of those were career lows for him. Coming into this season Ansah had to know that he needed to have a big bounce back year both for the team to have success and, frankly, if he wanted to get stupid paid this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

Unfortunately for him the injury bug struck again.

Throughout this season Ansah has played through a myriad of injuries including a knee injury to start the year and a back injury that forced him to miss two games in the middle of the season. Through the first 15 weeks of the season Ansah "only" had six sacks, which is of course more respectable than having just two, but still not anywhere near the production you expect from an All-Pro kind of player.

But then in Week 16 Ansah had his second three-sack game of the year in a loss to the Bengals. On film, he looked like that same guy from back in 2015.

So it was with great interest to me how Ansah would finish the season against the Packers last Sunday.

After watching the film it was impossible not to be impressed.

The guy I saw against the Packers was the kind of beast I thought I would have seen all of last season and this season. Now that he at least appeared to be healthy, Ansah wrecked Green Bay's game plan repeatedly. There wasn't much they could do much to stop him.

Take for instance the pressure Ansah was able to get with just a little over five minutes left in the first quarter.

The Packers had driven the ball from their 32 all the way down to the Lions' 23-yard line, facing a third-and-10. Ansah was standing up aligned as the left defensive end in a wide five. On the snap, Ansah took two hard steps up field and then quickly did an arm over inside on Packers right tackle Justin McCray.

He beat McCray so cleanly that the right guard, Lucas Patrick, who was supposed to be helping McCray inside, had absolutely no shot to impede Ansah's penetration into the B gap. Ansah drove his helmet right into Packers quarterback Brett Hundley's ribs just as Hundley was releasing the football trying to hit Jeff Janis who was streaking open across the middle for a potential touchdown. Because of the pressure the ball ended up being just a little to far ahead of Janis. That incompletion forced the Packers to settle for a field goal on fourth down.

That's what I call making an impact on the outcome of the game!

Later on in the first half, Ansah made another big play on third down. With a little less than six minutes left in the second quarter the Packers faced a third-and-8 from their own 12-yard line. Ansah was lined up as the left defensive end in a wide five, Cornelius Washington was inside of him as a regular five-technique, A'Shawn Robinson lined up in the left A gap and Dwight Freeney was lined up in a wide five as the right defensive end.

On the snap, Robinson looped to the right for contain, outside of right defensive end Freeney who came inside on an EX game. Washington went right at Patrick and chopped his hands down, while Ansah took two hard steps up field to get McCray to bail out of his stance to protect against a speed rush.

Washington and Ansah were actually running a TEX game. When Ansah felt Washington get penetration between Patrick and McCray, Ansah stuck his outside foot in the ground and quickly looped inside. Patrick was still locked onto Washington's rip move. Center Corey Linsley was distracted by Robinson crossing his face which gave Ansah a split second opportunity to make it through the A gap.

Linsley saw Ansah at the last minute and tried to pick him up, but by that time Ansah had picked up a head of steam. He ran right through Linsley's punch like he wasn't even standing there. Hundley didn't see Ansah coming until it was too late so he just covered up the football and surrendered to his fate.

Ansah took him down for a loss of 10 yards, forcing Green Bay to punt on the next play.

It didn't go down as a sack, but Ansah had another pressure near the end of the first half that ended up having the same impact as a sack.

The Packers had a first-and-10 at their own 14-yard line with 2:15 to go in the first half and staring at a 17-3 deficit.

Ansah was once again lined up as the left defensive end. This time he decided to try a bull rush on McCray. Ansah made good contact and got good extension with his arms as he pushed McCray back into Hundley's lap. Hundley felt the pressure and looked to scramble outside of the pocket. Instead of allowing McCray to continue to stay between him and his prey, Ansah did a spin move outside to escape off the block.

He was able to reach out with those long arms of his and take Hundley down, just as Hundley was trying to throw the ball away. Unfortunately for Hundley there wasn't anybody with a Packers jersey in the vicinity of that pass so the refs called intentional grounding.

It didn't go in the books as a sack for Ansah, but the Packers lost 13 yards and had a loss of down. They would end up punting three plays later.

Early in the third quarter the Packers were facing a third-and-5 on the Lions' 46-yard line on the Packers' first drive of the second half. This time Ansah was lined up as the regular five-technique with Robinson lined up outside of him in a wide five, Akeem Spence lined up in the left A gap, and Freeney once again in a wide five a right defensive end all by his lonesome.

On the snap, Robinson rushed up field on the edge while Spence rushed up field in the A gap. Freeney took a couple of steps up field, but then came inside to the right B gap. Ansah took two hard steps up field right at Patrick, then looped all the way to the right for contain.

Packers left guard Lane Taylor, thought he knew what was coming when he saw all of this happening.

Yeah, he thought.

Taylor shuffled to his right looking for Ansah looping inside, thinking Ansah would be coming through his A gap. If that would have happened, Taylor did indeed have himself in good position to pick up Ansah. But remember when I said Freeney came inside after a couple of steps?

Well, Ansah did come around and feign as if he was going to go through Taylor's A gap, but he was really just setting Taylor's ass up.

After his brief hesitation, Ansah continued to loop around to the right. Taylor tried to mirror Ansah's movement, but just as he turned back outside, here came Freeney blasting him right in his damn chest.

Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari was still still trying to block Freeney as Freeney damn near knocked Taylor on his ass. Bakhtiari almost didn't notice when Ansah looped around the edge. At the last minute, he tried to stick his outside arm out to push Ansah wide, but it was already too late.

Ansah blew by Bakhtiari's out-stretched arm and was on Hundley before he had time to react. Hundley again, for some reason, decided he would try to scramble outside to get away from him, and it went damn near exactly the way it had the first time. This time, however, Ansah took him down for his second sack of the game and a loss of 12 yards.

The Packers' punt team got quite the workout on Sunday thanks to Ansah's antics.

On Ansah's third and final sack of the game, the Packers had a third-and-6 from their own 24-yard line with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

This time Ansah was back at his regular left defensive end spot lined up in a wide five again. On the snap, Ansah raced upfield and got McCray to bail out of his stance again. On his fourth step, Ansah went right at McCray like he was going to chop his hands down with his inside hand, but when McCray went to punch Ansah, pirouetted off his inside foot and executed a really nice spin move, which is something you don't see a lot from him.

Ansah finished the move by using what had been his outside arm to keep McCray from recovering by chopping him in his back with it. That allowed Ansah to beat McCray quickly and cleanly. So quickly and cleanly, in fact, that Hundley had barely finished his drop back before Ansah was right in his face. Try as he might to make Ansah miss, it was all to no avail.

Ansah took Hundley down once again, this time for a loss of 9 yards, and you could practically hear the Packers' sideline yelling "PUNT TEAM."

Ultimately, Ansah's fantastic play the last two weeks was too little, too late as the Lions missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record and decided to fire head coach Jim Caldwell. But these last two weeks have given everybody a reminder of who Ansah can be when he's actually fully healthy. Even with the injuries this season, somehow, someway, he still managed to end the season with 12 sacks in 14 games, which equals the second-highest sack output of his career.

It remains to be seen how much money a team will be willing to throw at Ansah after two injury-riddled seasons, but with his performance on Sunday against the Packers, which included three sacks, two hurries, two hits on the quarterback, and three other tackles, one thing is for sure — Ezekiel Ansah definitely earned Hoss of the Week honors for Week 17.