The offseason drama surrounding the contract situation between the Detroit Lions and defensive end Cliff Avril seems to be over, for now. However, as the season inches closer, the looming thought in the minds of many Lions' fans is whether or not this will be the final season in which he plays in a Honolulu Blue jersey. Common sentiment is that it may, indeed, be his last year in Detroit. If it should come to pass, all is not lost as another emerging star has shown himself in Motown.
One result of the delayed contract negotiation between Avril and the Lions is that it gave a young defensive end, Willie Young, additional reps with the first team defense. With the initial weeks of training camp underway, Young has impressed nearly everyone who has been witness to his much-improved performance. CBS Sports and Mlive.com's Anwar Richardson were among the many who touted Young's performance, early in this preseason. It wasn't until the Friday August 10 game against Cleveland, however, that many were able to see a glimpse of the improvement Young has made.
Coming off the line against Cleveland, Young looked as fast, if not more so, than Avril had last season. The offensive line was no match for him, as he solidified himself in the Browns' backfield on a continual basis. Though the official stat line will show he was responsible for a sack and a fumble recovery, the true scope of the terror he unleashed on Cleveland's offense was without question, one of the more dominating performances I have seen from a defensive lineman in some time.
It is obvious, to anyone who follows the Detroit Lions, the leap made by Young - from minimal contributor last season to potential future starter this season - was due to a tremendous amount of hard work and preparation. Young's transition will be an important factor in not only this season's progress, but the future of the defensive end position, should Avril's tenure in Detroit be at its end. For a seventh-round pick, a Cinderella story may, in fact, be in the works. Whether it has a similar ending, however, will rely on his continued improvement and steady work ethic. By all accounts, and current performance, he is well on his way to becoming a primetime player.
The author, D. Benjamin Satkowiak, is a successful entrepreneur and published, freelance author, who has tailored works on various sports, health and fitness topics. He currently serves as a Yahoo! Contributor Network "Featured Contributor" and writes on the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, Great Lakes Loons and Notre Dame football.