By Ashley Dunkak
Defensive linemen Andre Fluellen’s on-again, off-again relationship with the Detroit Lions is on once more. Going into his sixth year in the NFL, Fluellen has spent parts of every season with the Lions, and he has returned yet again.
One of the Lions’ final roster cuts during this preseason, Fluellen is back to help fill the void left by fellow veteran defensive end Jason Jones. Jones went down with a knee injury Sunday against Washington and is out for the season.
Another play who will have to help pick up the slack is Devin Taylor, a 6-foot-8, 267-pound rookie out of South Carolina.
“We’re going to lean on Devin Taylor,” head coach Jim Schwartz said. “A lot of the same things we like in Jason, we like in Devin, and he played well at times in the preseason, but he needs to grow up quickly. It’s no different than anybody else. Being a young player in the league, you’ve got to perform.”
Another rookie has already been making big plays at defensive end – Ziggy Ansah. He has forced fumbles in each of the Lions’ first three games, although each one has been wiped out by a penalty. Nevertheless, Ansah’s play-making ability has come to be expected by Schwartz.
“He makes plays whenever he goes in the game, so I don’t know that it’s a progression, to tell you the truth,” Schwartz said. “He learns something new every week, he practices well, his technique continues to improve, but he just has that knack for being able to make a play on the field, and this game was no different.”
Also impressing up front is Willie Young, who first got into the public eye this season by getting up in the face of three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady during the Lions’ preseason win over New England. Despite that indiscretion and some other penalties, Schwartz said Young is continuing to play well.
“I thought he did some good things,” Schwartz said. ” Just like Ziggy, just like all our other players, some things he needs to be more consistent on, but I thought he did a good job in the run. He rushed very well in the game against a really good left tackle, Trent Williams. Most of his rushes came over on Trent Williams’ side. Made his impact felt. He’s on the right path.”
Whether the line as a whole remains on the right path remains to be season. Sunday’s game agaist the Chicago Bears, a division foe who this weekend roughed up the winless Pittsburgh Steelers and emerged with a five-plus turnover margin.