By Will Burchfield
@burchie_kid

If few people foresaw Kerry Hyder leading the Detroit Lions with five sacks through the first eight games of the season, even fewer envisioned Ziggy Ansah being stuck at zero. Where the former has been a pleasant surprise, the latter has been an indisputable disappointment.

READ MORE: Police Search For Armed Suspect Who Robbed 16-Year-Old Girl In Detroit

Ansah entered this season coming off a 14.5-sack campaign in 2015 and a trip to the Pro Bowl. Prior to the Lions’ opening game, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said Ansah was already in the NFL’s upper echelon of defensive players. Jim Caldwell claimed Ansah was only scratching the surface of his potential. Either way, the 27-year-old seemed poised for a monster year.

This makes it all the more startling that Ansah has just four total tackles and not a single sack to his name through four full games in 2016. He went down early in Week 2 with an ankle injury and sat out the Lions’ next three games. Since returning in Week 6, the typically-explosive Ansah has hardly been a factor.

ProFootballFocus gives him a season grade of 62.8, which places Ansah behind 62 other edge defenders in the NFL. Yes, 62.

In explaining Ansah’s slow start — and “slow” might be generous — Caldwell pointed to opposing teams’ game plans.

“He gets some attention now, obviously, there’s no question about it. I think that you have to, and thus I think you see some other guys that are having an opportunity with some one-on-one’s that are taking advantage of them,” he said.

READ MORE: Michigan Gov. Whitmer Proposes $500 Tax Rebate For Working Families

“But yeah, there’s no question about it,” Caldwell went on. “He doesn’t get as many just clean, one-on-one’s without protection turning to him. Some of those things, maybe he’d gotten previously. But I still think there’s still opportunities for him, which he’ll take advantage of,” Caldwell said.

The coach said the Lions are scheming to get Ansah involved in more favorable matchups, adding that, “We’ve always done that.”

As a whole, the Lions’ pass rush has been solid of late. They have nine sacks in the last four games and are tied for 11th in the league with 18 sacks overall. In Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans, the Lions registered three sacks, three knockdowns and five quarterback hits against the 6-foot-7 Brock Osweiler.

Three sacks and numerous knockdowns is pretty good pressure, I think,” Caldwell said. “We had one sack against us, so thinking that we get six or seven sacks in a game, in this league that’s not common. But I do think we were putting some pressure on him. Would we like more? You certainly would, but the guys they have up there protecting can do a job as well, too. I think our guys got after him pretty good there.”

Still, it’s troubling that Ansah didn’t contribute to that effort, at least from a statistical standpoint. He’s been the lynchpin of the Lions’ pass-rush since Ndamukong Suh departed via free agency and the team is counting on him to lead the way on the defensive line. Without Ansah making plays, Detroit’s front seven goes from potentially dominant to downright average.

It’s possible that Ansah is being hindered by his ankle injury, although he said ahead of Week 7 that he felt as strong as he could possibly feel given the circumstances. In all likelihood, he is simply struggling to adjust to life as a Pro Bowl defensive end. And if he can’t overcome the double teams and extra coverage being thrust his way, well, at least there’s Kerry Hyder.

MORE NEWS: Rays Win 6-1

Who could’ve imagined that?