Ziggy Ansah isn’t the most durable pass rusher in the NFL, but the Lions need him on the field Sunday if they’re doing to defeat the 49ers.
It’s safe to say Week 1 didn’t go as planned for the Detroit Lions. They opened the game by returning Sam Darnold’s first NFL pass for a touchdown, but things went south quickly from there. The fact that Ziggy Ansah left the game during the first quarter with a shoulder injury certainly didn’t help Detroit’s defense.
With all due respect to Darnold and the Jets offense, the Lions will face a much sterner test on Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense struggled against the Vikings in their opener, but Mike Zimmer’s defense can have that effect on a quarterback. San Francisco’s offense will be very motivated to put the Minnesota game behind them by lighting up the Detroit defense.
That’s precisely why having Ansah on the field this weekend is so important for Matt Patricia. After being blown out by the Jets, the former Patriots’ assistant can’t afford to suffer another lopsided loss against the 49ers. The team’s offense is a solid bet to play better than they did in the opener, but the defense is another question altogether.
At the moment, Ansah is questionable for the game. He claims he’s desperate to get out there and start “fighting with (his) brothers” once again. That’s good, because the Lions’ chance of winning the game may well depend on his ability to participate.
There’s some talent in the Lions secondary, but the team’s front seven is one of the weakest personnel groups in the NFL. Ansah is the only legitimate pass rusher on the roster. He finished the 2017 season with 12 sacks in just 14 games. Anthony Zettel finished second on the team with 6.5 sacks but the team elected to release him just before the start of the regular season. If Ansah misses this game, there’s no one that’s capable of picking up his pass rushing slack.
The obvious truth here is that Garoppolo is primed to have a big game if he has time to throw. The Lions secondary isn’t going to be able to cover the likes of Pierre Garcon, Dante Pettis and George Kittle for extended periods of time on each pass pattern. This isn’t a Pro Bowl group of pass catchers, but they have more than enough talent to torch Detroit if they’re given loads of time.
The bottom line is that the Lions need to do everything they can to avoid getting off to an 0-2 start against the 49ers. That might be a mountain too big to climb without Ansah on the field. Patricia and the rest of the coaching staff need to hope his shoulder heals in time to make Garoppolo’s life difficult on Sunday.