It may not have been the Detroit Lions worst fear possible heading into Sunday’s preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, but losing starting defensive end Kerry Hyder to what Jim Caldwell called a “significant” Achilles injury certainly was not part of the game plan.
Hyder was injured during the Lions second defensive series on the game at it was apparent almost immediately that something was seriously wrong. Caldwell came out to the field along with the training staff and so did the field cart. When Hyder was finally able to get up, he clearly could not put weight on his leg as he was helped onto the cart.
From the sounds of things, Hyder tore his Achilles tendon and will likely miss the entire season.
Lions fear DE Kerry Hyder tore his Achilles, per source. More tests Monday. https://t.co/qQKLlTrxmk
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 13, 2017
In 2016, Hyder had an outstanding season for the Lions almost out of nowhere to lead the team with eight sacks. 2017 was supposed to be a season in which he took the next step while playing with his partner in crime, Ezekiel Ansah.
Since Lions general manager Bob Quinn failed to address the defensive end position in the offseason, the team is now forced not only to find a replacement for Hyder but to figure out a way to add some depth to an already depleted defensive line.
Here is a list of three options for the Lions to replace Hyder for the upcoming season.
In my opinion, the obvious choice to replace Hyder in the Lions starting lineup is Anthony Zettel. Zettel is going into his second year in the league after being drafted by the Lions in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Ever since coming to Detroit, he has impressed his teammates and the Lions coaching staff and now may be his time to prove himself as a starter.
This offseason, Zettel not only spent countless hours to strengthen his legs to improve his explosiveness but he put in some major film time, including studying J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan, and Tambi Hali.
“I think going into that second year is huge,” Zettel said earlier in the week. “Everybody talks about it’s the biggest jump, and I think it is.”
“I think the confidence level and how I approach every day is just different. I’m not coming in there timid anymore, thinking about ways that I could mess up. I’m thinking about ways I can get better, so my confidence is a lot better and that’s (in line) with those second-year players around the league.”
Well, Mr. Zettel, it may be time to prove just how much better you are than a year ago.
Could an Old Vet Help Lions?
Though I believe that making Zettel the starter in place of Hyder, the Lions could decide that allowing their second-year project can still use some more seasoning.
If that is the case, Quinn could look at the free agent defensive ends who are still available. There is one imparticular who stands out a bit to me and that’s the 37-year-old Dwight Freeney. Now, I realize Freeney is WELL past his prime but he just could have enough gas left in the tank to help out the Lions for one season.
In 2016, Freeney played a backup role with the Atlanta Falcons and was able to provide some depth for the Super Bowl runner ups. In 15 games played, the former All-Pro picked up three sacks.
Bringing Freeney to town would likely mean Zettel would begin as the starter but it would be nice to have some veteran presence if the youngster is not quite ready.
A Former No. 1 Overall Pick is Still Available
Heading into the 2006 NFL Draft, the talk of the town defensively speaking was DE, Mario Williams out of North Carolina State. The Houston Texans decided to make Williams the No. 1 overall pick and he went on to play in four Pro Bowls in his career.
Williams is certainly an injury concern but the 32-year-old is only three seasons removed from being an All-Pro after recording 14.5 sacks with the Buffalo Bills.
Now, it is important to remember that the Lions are pretty much in desperation mode when it comes to the defensive end position and Williams would have to prove he is in football shape, something he was not during his stint with the Miami Dolphins in 2016.
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase acknowledged as much.
“When he came back for training camp, at his age, I think it caught up to him a little bit. He was fighting to get in great shape and make sure (he did) the injury prevention type thing. It was one of those years that just didn’t work out for him. It didn’t work out for us. I know that he was trying to do everything he could to contribute. It just wasn’t his year.”
Chances are that Williams, if he stays in football shape and still wants to play, will get picked up by a desperate team at some point in the season. Who knows, that team could be the Lions.