When Detroit Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew was asked about outstanding performers this offseason, Lions fans may have expected the names Fairley and Best.
After all, Nick and Jahvid were first-round picks. However, the third player Mayhew listed was much less expected. Third-year defensive end Willie Young rounded out Mayhew’s honor roll, making Detroit’s front line even more formidable.
Young made a splash as a second-year player last season, showing great speed and burst as a pass-rusher in the situational snaps he saw. Young tallied 14 tackles and three sacks, including the game-clinching one against the Cowboys with under a minute left.
Fast Willie is down ten pounds from last year, and has shown improved speed and explosiveness so far in camp according to Mayhew.
Then again, never underestimate the political side of football.
While Young may be dazzling so far this offseason, don’t forget that Detroit’s star defensive end Cliff Avril hasn’t been working out with the team. While Avril has been searching for a
new deal, Young has been great in training camp.
Seems convenient doesn’t it? I don’t doubt Young’s speed and length- he is 6’5” and has very good speed for a DE. However, he hasn’t shown the ability to fight through blocks exceptionally well and I consider Avril far superior in the running game.
Young may be doing well, but this could also be Mayhew sending a message to Avril. If Avril knows the Lions can replace him to some extent, he is more likely to sign for less. The math is simple: a great Willie Young means Avril is less valuable to the team.
Cliff wants to stay in Detroit, this much he has stated several times, but he has also said he “would prefer not to play under the franchise tag,” which is exactly what the Lions put on him at the beginning of this offseason.
It remains to be seen whether or not this statement by Mayhew will help the team get a deal done with Avril, but the comment certainly can’t hurt. In my opinion, Avril is asking for more than he is worth, and he is still relatively unproven with just one elite season under his belt. I think the Lions are smart to franchise tag him and make him earn a big contract.
While the Young- Avril debate continues, don’t forget about Nick Fairley and Jahvid Best. It is extremely encouraging to see Mayhew praise these two guys, as they have faced adversity this offseason. Fairley has been arrested twice and Best is returning from a concussion that some thought would end his career.
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