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Is the sky the limit for Lions' DE Ziggy Ansah?

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Out of the first 10 players selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, how many of us out there predicted that Ziggy Ansah would be the most reliable starter two years later?

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Go ahead. We'll wait.

And the most interesting part about the pass rusher, who was almost completely foreign to the game of football before his selection two years ago out of BYU, is that he can only get better from here.

He's in the midst of his first actual offseason.

"He's got exceptional talent," Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin told the team's website. "He's a great guy, great worker and loves ball, so the sky is the limit for him."

The Lions didn't count his rookie offseason, which is fair. The player development curve almost completely ignores a rookie's first summer given all the distractions and uncertainty. Players are moving for the first time, assimilating, meeting new coaches, signing endorsement deals, learning a new playbook and adjusting to a life that, try as they may, they could never imagine.

Last offseason, Ansah had shoulder surgery.

So now we're left to wonder how much he can truly grow. The team has a budding superstar in Austin and the pair seem to have developed a solid relationship. He watched Ansah register 7.5 sacks, 23 hits and 37 hurries coming off a winter and spring during which he was recovering from an operation.

Maybe this is why they're not exactly scrambling following the loss of Ndamukong Suh.

Haloti Ngata, at 31, will help, but the team cannot reasonably expect a perennial top 10 player at the defensive tackle position.

Instead, this falls on Ansah's shoulders. He's at the right age and condition. He now has a summer to review his tape and work out at a caliber he's never been able to in the past.

It's time to see what the Lions' defense looks like built around him.

"I think he can be even better," general manager Martin Mayhew said. "I think he's a good, solid player right now. I think this guy can be a phenomenal player, a great player, if he keeps coming the way he's coming."

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