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08/31/12Author: Dave Birkett - Sporting News

Willie Young could be this year’s front-four stud

Willie Young could be this year’s front-four stud

ALLEN PARK, Mich.—The biggest breakout of the preseason for the Detroit Lions was defensive end Willie Young.

In the first three exhibition games, Young recovered a fumble he forced with a sack of Brandon Weeden, blocked a punt and intercepted a pass, prompting Lions coach Jim Schwartz to finally break stride (after cautioning, “Let’s not put him in the Hall of Fame yet” in Week 1) and acknowledge, “He makes a lot of plays.”

Detroit Lions: Defensive End Willie Young has emerged as another playmaker on the team's line. (AP Photo)
Young’s emergence gives the Lions another playmaker on their deep defensive line, though it’s unlikely he’ll produce dominant numbers this year as he’s still a backup to Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

But at 26 and entering his third NFL season, Young could be Avril’s eventual successor at left end if the Avril leaves as an unrestricted free agent this winter.

The Lions have every intention of trying to work out a contract with Avril, but they failed in that pursuit over the summer, leaving Avril to play on a one-year franchise tender.

New addition: The Lions sent a conditional draft pick to the Redskins for cornerback Kevin Barnes on Monday. Barnes is expected to fill a number of roles in the Lions’ thin secondary. He covered mostly slot receivers in nickel packages last year, but the Lions believe he can play outside at 6-1 and will work him as a backup safety.

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