The job description for an NFL defensive end does not include the word “fun.”
But that is exactly the word Anthony Zettel used to describe his first start at the position in the Detroit Lions 35-23 win on Sunday.
Zettel was the only one to sack Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer. The pressure created by Zettel and his linemates played a part in the three interceptions thrown by Palmer.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)
“There was some pressure. It doesn’t mean you get a bevy of sacks all the time, but if you can put enough pressure to create and muddy to pocket a little bit, I think we did muddy the pocket some,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said.
“I feel like I played well but I’ve got a lot to improve on. … I was playing as hard as I could, the rest takes care of itself. I’m looking forward to next week to get back on the field with those guys because that was the funnest I’ve ever had on the field with someone,’’ Zettel said on Monday.
Zettel, a sixth-round pick out of Penn State in 2016, played in 13 games as a rookie with his first career sack in Week 15.
He had a good training camp. And while there was plenty of hand-wringing about the depth on the defensive line, he and the others just kept working. They’ll get more help after the suspensions of Armonty Bryant (three more games) and Khyri Thornton (five more games).
The next test comes on Monday night at the New York Giants.
“I play this game to earn respect from the guys across from me. I just want the guy on the Giants who plays across from me just to know he played me that game and I did get on him,’’ Zettel said. “That’s the only thing I play this game for is that and the love of team and the work and sweat we put in together is the biggest thing that’s why I play this game.’’
The line is also without Kerry Hyder, the 2016 sack leader, who tore his Achilles in the first preseason game. The numbers may be down but the spirits are high.
“We have a really tough group this year. Everybody is on the same page and we really want to play as hard as we can for each other,’’ Zettel said. “That’s when you have a good team when everybody cares about the other guys and they’ll do anything they can to win the game.’’
Zettel said they practiced well all last week, getting after the scout team.
“So we had high expectations coming into this game, I think it all starts with practice and it translated really well over to the game,’’ Zettel said.
While he was certainly pleased with many things about the win, he was thinking about the next challenge.
He liked the energy the defense brought to the field.
The line can’t be judged on just one sack.
“We don’t talk numbers but we want to be the best in the NFL,’’ Zettel said. “I think if any team doesn’t try to be the best they’re cheating themselves.’’