Insiders Stephen Holder and Dave Birkett talk about the Detroit Lions’ preseason victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Aug. thirteen, 2017, at Lucas Oil Stadium.
By all accounts, Kerry Hyder was in a somber temper Monday.
“There’s no one that’s enthusiastic about going via what he’s going by means of,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell stated. “It’s a troublesome time.”
Hyder suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon damage within the Lions’ preseason-opening win over the Indianapolis Colts and, according to NFL Network, will undergo surgery this week.
But while Hyder’s loss is an undeniable blow to the Lions’ thin defensive line, it’s not quite the deathknell some have made it out to be.
Last year, Hyder joined a long list of pass rushers who have come from nowhere to post career sack totals under Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. He led the team with eight sacks, and was penciled in to start at the run-stopping left-end position this fall.
Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah walks off the field after practice Sunday, July 30, 2017 in Allen Park. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Given the Lions’ current situation, with Ziggy Ansah on the physically unable to perform list, Cornelius Washington and Armonty Bryant battling injuries (and Bryant facing a suspension), and a bunch of rookies behind unproven second-year end Anthony Zettel, Hyder’s loss hits hard.
If the team opened the regular season today, undrafted rookies Jeremiah Valoaga and Alex Barrett would join Zettel in a toothless pass-rush rotation.
But as Caldwell reminded everyone after his team’s short walk-through Monday, the Lions don’t need their defensive front to be ready for game action for another month.
“We got a long time between now and the preseason’s over with and we’ll just see how things go,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got some young guys with some talent, they have some ability, so we’ll see what happens.”
Hyder had a remarkable season last year, especially considering where he came from (practice squad fodder in 2015). But the Lions have one stud pass rusher in Ansah, a couple nice tackles in A’Shawn Robinson, Haloti Ngata and Akeem Spence, and mostly other interchangeable parts.
Hyder proved to be more than that last year, and Caldwell has gone on record as saying the converted defensive tackle is no one-year wonder.
But the Lions’ success up front this fall is and always was going to be about Ansah.
The Lions have stayed relatively quiet about Ansah’s return from a leg injury, but the defensive end is expected back in time for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
[Dave Birkett’s game-by-game picks for the 2017 Detroit Lions]
Ansah had just two sacks in the regular season last year after posting 14.5 the season before, and if he doesn’t come close to his 2015 production this fall, the Lions aren’t likely to be very good on defense again.
On Monday, several Lions players expressed confidence in the group they have sans Hyder.
“We got Ziggy coming back, so he’s definitely a Pro Bowl guy,” Spence said. “You got Cornelius Washington coming back out to practice this week, so definitely can fill in for Kerry Hyder and he’s a well-known pass rusher. And you got guys inside that can rush from me to J-Hill (Jeremy Hill), A’Shawn’s been picking it up as well so it’s just a next-guy up mentality. Zettel had a real strong game, and even our young guys, they showcased, they had all the sacks so we got a very good group, we’re very confident.”
Washington, a free-agent addition this off-season, is the odds-on favorite to replace Hyder at left end, though Zettel also could get a look.
And Caldwell left open the possibility – maybe even hinted at it – that the Lions would add a veteran to their pass-rushing corps.
“(Players) understand that some things, as unfortunate as they are, they’re going to happen, and particularly in our game,” Caldwell said. “So there has to be someone else that’ll be able to step up and play for you. And oftentimes we look at different teams, there’s usually somebody that comes that’s not on your team initially that comes from somewhere else that comes in to do a great job for you, so that’s consistent. There’s kind of an ebb and flow throughout our game.”
Hyder will be missed, in the locker room, the meeting room and on the field. But his absence won’t be an excuse for whatever the Lions do or don’t do up front this year.
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