(Editor's Note: With the offseason in full swing, the focus is now shifting to the 2016 season, where the Cowboys have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Not only do the Cowboys face five playoff teams but many of the top players in football. So the writers of DallasCowboys.com have ranked the Top 50 players expected to be on the field this season, including the Cowboys. Today, we continue the list with Lions pass rusher Ziggy Ansah.)
Name: Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah
Team: Detroit Lions
Position: Defensive End
Experience: 3 seasons
2016 vs. Cowboys: Ansah and the Lions come to AT&T Stadium for a marquee Monday Night Football matchup on Dec. 26 – the day after Christmas.
What's the Deal: It's funny to think back to the 2013 NFL Draft, when Ansah's credentials were heavily scrutinized. After all, he did not play American football as a youth, and he didn't begin his career at BYU until he was persuaded to walk on as a college sophomore. Fast forward three years since he was drafted No. 5 overall by Detroit, and he has blossomed into one of the NFL's most promising young pass rushers. The Ghanian-born 27-year-old has 30 sacks after just three seasons, including an impressive 14.5 last year – good enough for third in the league. Ansah draws plays for his motor and his consistency, and he has been consistent during every year of his career. He broke into the NFL with eight sacks as a rookie and posted 7.5 in his second season before blowing up in 2015. The Lions picked up the fifth-year option on Ansah's contract this spring, and he'll undoubtedly be expensive to retain.
Expect This: There are some great pass rushers on this year's schedule – the Cowboys have dates against the likes of Carlos Dunlap, Olivier Vernon, Clay Matthews, Fletcher Cox and Geno Atkins. Ansah might be the best pure defensive end on that entire list. He has refined his technique over the years, and he's got amazing speed and athleticism for a guy his size. He's also got the versatility to play both sides of the line, so it's a good bet that both Tyron Smith and Doug Free will have to deal with him at some point.
Previous Meetings: Ansah has played the Cowboys just once – in the 2014-15 playoffs at AT&T Stadium. He didn't quite dominate, but he was effective with two tackles and a sack during the Lions' 24-20 loss to Dallas. It's worth pointing out that, with Doug Free out injured in the playoffs, Ansah got the sack against backup right tackle Jermey Parnell.
Bryan Broaddus Scouting Report:
- Long, rangy build. Was a high risk – reward player coming out of college. Production was not great at BYU, but there was no doubt the talent was there. Lions took a chance and it has paid off big.
- Learning curve was very small. Impact player from the word "Go." Can really extend on the blocker to control. Quick to get off and find the ball. Sees his share of double teams.
- Lines up on both the left and right sides. Nice initial quickness off the ball. Plays with a burst. Can really run from the backside. Will take on the trap block with power and disengage. Can capture the corner as an edge rusher. Will spin to free himself on the pass rush.
- Hits with a pop when tackling. Can knock the blocker back with power. Is no match for a tight end when blocking one-on-one. Relentless to find the ball. Can get up the field quickly, then retrace his steps to get back in on the play.[embeddedad0]
- Ansah is a hard guy to run the ball around. Knows how to play down the line and finish the play. Can split double teams. Slippery on the twist stunt. Can break a blocker down with his rush.
- Doesn't always come at the same angle. Wide variety of moves. Will force blockers into penalties. Is always slapping at the ball trying to create turnovers in the pocket.
- He will get knocked off balance at times, but the majority of his snaps he plays on his feet. Has the ability to control a game with his pass rush and has to be accounted for each and every play.