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10/11/13Author: Justin Rodgers - MLive.com

Detroit Lions DE Willie Young making the most of expanded role

Detroit Lions DE Willie Young making the most of expanded role

ALLEN PARK -- Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young typically oozes personality, but through the early stages of the 2013 season, something is different.

Young is quieter on the practice field and in the locker room. When he talks with the media, it's not all jokes and smiles like it's been in years past.

He's as serious as he's ever been and it's something his coaches have noticed.

"I haven't heard him speak at all," defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. "He has been all business from what I've seen. I've watched him, I haven't talked to him hardly. He is in the zone and I want to keep him that way."

All business. 

Coach Jim Schwartz used similar terminology when talking to the media about Young on Friday. He said the defensive end has embraced his increased role on the defense.

"When Jason Jones went down, he really needed to pick it up and focus. He's done that," Schwartz said. "Willie has always been a guy that when he goes into the game, he's made plays. But he's been a lot more consistent. He's very serious about helping this team."

Despite evidence to the contrary, Young scoffed at the notion that's he's been more business-like this season.  In his mind, he's always been all business on the field. 

The difference now is Young doesn't worry about if he'll play enough snaps to have the impact he knows he's capable of making. 

"That's what everybody thrives on," Young said. "Everybody just hopes, wishes to get that opportunity. Give me that fair opportunity to get out there and show what I can do.

"The coaches believe and trust in me, knowing that I'm good for it. Knowing that I'm going to give it all that I got, every play that I'm out there."

Young's playing time is up considerably this year. Last season, in 15 games, he averaged 21 snaps. This year, that's more than doubled. Through four weeks, he's playing 47 snaps per game.

He has matched the increased workload with increased production. He has 11 tackles, a sack and seven quarterback hits, meeting or exceeding his totals from last season.

"I thought Willie Young played an outstanding football game last week," Cunningham said. "I have never seen him play like that. The run, the pass, it didn't make any difference."

Young mostly brushes aside questions about his individual success. He's bought into the team-first mentality and deflects praise to the entire defensive line.

"My job is a lot easier when I've got guys like I've got in my room. We can get away with a lot of stuff because of who we have, personnel-wise."

Andre Fluellen has a locker directly next to Young's. The veteran defensive tackle has been in Detroit for the majority of Young's career and has witnessed his development since being drafted by the Lions in 2010.

Fluellen says Young is just naturally growing as a player, the same way you would grow in any profession.

"I remember from my rookie year to my fourth season, it's kind of the same thing for him," Fluellen said. "You find your mold. He's the same person, but he's a different player with a different mentality."

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