With all due respect to Calvin Johnson and his monster performance in Friday night's game against Baltimore, there has been one Detroit Lion who has emerged as a delightful surprise this preseason.
Defensive end Willie Young has taken advantage of a contract dispute involving Cliff Avril and the injury to Kyle Vandenbosch and made the most of his playing time during the Lions' first two preseason games.
He has spent consistent time in the backfield of both opponents, blowing by offensive linemen and causing chaos at every opportunity.
Though his stat line may not reflect it, his impact is clear just by watching the game films. Young is seemingly within an arm's reach of the quarterback on every play, altering the timing and development of the offense.
He's had two highlight moments thus far in the preseason.
The first was a "three-for-one" if you will, where he registered a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery on the same play against Cleveland.
The second was the punt he blocked Friday against the Ravens that essentially sealed the win for Detroit.
These should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career so far. The one thing Young does not lack is athleticism, as evident in the three picks he registered during his college days at N.C. State. That's almost unheard of for a defensive lineman. He even took one 34 yards to the end zone as a freshman.
His continued growth and playmaking ability are a great sign of things to come for a team looking to find a successor to the aging Vandenbosch as well as a possible replacement for Avril after this season.
Fans should keep an eye on him in Detroit's next preseason game Saturday night at Oakland. To their credit, the Raiders have protected their signal-callers fairly well so far, giving up only three total sacks.
That said, they have yet to face a defensive line like Detroit's. Young should be able to capitalize on double-teams of his teammates at defensive tackle and spend more time in the offensive backfield.
In any event, it looks like Willie Young will be a vital part of Detroit's front seven in 2012, either as a starter or in what should be a regular rotation.
The rest of the season will decide whether or not he'll be the pass-rusher of the future for Detroit, but for now, he'll be another playmaker in arguably the best position group Detroit has.
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