By Ashley Dunkak
@AshleyDunkak

CBS DETROIT – For the Detroit Lions, contributions from young defensive linemen will be more important than ever in 2015, since the team lost starters Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley and rotational players George Johnson, C.J. Mosley and Andre Fluellen during the offseason.

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Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin spoke Wednesday about several of the young players expected to compete for more snaps on the defensive line this season. Second-year defensive tackle Caraun Reid, whom Detroit drafted in the fifth round in 2014, is one such player.

Both Austin and head coach Jim Caldwell spoke highly of what Reid did in the offseason before returning to the team facility at Allen Park.

“When you talk about two guys that came back different physically this time of year than last year, Caraun’s one of those,” Caldwell said. “Eric [Ebron]’s one, obviously, and Caraun’s the other. I think he’s done a tremendous job just in terms of his approach to it. He looks good, increased his strength, his lean muscle has gone up, the whole gamut. So hopefully we’ll see that translate when we get an opportunity to go out there and go after it.”

Austin had a similar take on Reid.

“He’s trained really hard,” Austin said. “He’s in really good shape. He looks good right now. Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see once we get to pads where we are, but I like what he’s done so far.”

Two defensive ends who could make a push for more playing time are Devin Taylor and Larry Webster. Webster, a fourth-round pick last year, was inactive for all but two games. Taylor, a fourth-round pick in 2013, played in all 16 games for the Lions last season and totaled 15 tackles, including one sack.

“Devin looks really good so far,” Austin said. “He looks more explosive than he was last year. He looks stronger, so we’re pleased with where he is. We just have to get him to continue to develop and take that into the games so we can get more out of him, so he can get more out of himself, really.

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“When you look at Larry Webster, he put on a lot of great weight,” Austin continued. “Last year when he came in, he was about 250, maybe. But he’s a 265-, 270-pound man, and he looks like a defensive end at this point. So we’re anticipating that he’ll grow by leaps and bounds, and we won’t see the proof until we get into the preseason and the contact. We like where he is so far.”

The Lions also look forward to seeing growth from starting defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who has logged 15.5 sacks in his first two seasons.

“We think that he has a chance to be an outstanding defensive end in this league, one of the top-tier guys,” Austin said. “If he continues to develop and progress, he’ll get there.”

Last season, the defensive line was the top reason the Lions ranked as the best run defense in the NFL. Even though that unit may not be as potent this season, Austin said the team’s emphasis on stopping the run has not changed.

“That’s what we talk about,” Austin said. “Our number one thing is to stop the run. I know everybody wants to talk about the passing game and all that. We go into every game, and our number one goal is to shut down the running game of the other team and make them one-dimensional. So that’s our mindset, and that’s the mindset our guys are going to go into with.

“Every game, every season, as long as I’m coaching here, that’s what will be our deal,” Austin added.

Most would be surprised if the Detroit defense has the success it had last season, but Austin said he likes the depth the Lions have and expects the resulting competition to help everyone improve.

“If we have better competition and better depth, it’s going to make the starters better,” Austin said Wednesday. “We’ve got enough depth that we’re going to push. There are going to be some tough decisions that are going to have to be made on our football team, and that’s good.

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“You don’t come in and everybody’s clear-cut and you already know who your 53 are,” Austin added. “I don’t think that’s going to happen this year.”