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08/19/12Author: Dave Birkett - Detroit Free Press

Young makes plays - Jim Schwartz asks for more

Young makes plays - Jim Schwartz asks for more

BALTIMORE -- All Willie Young has done through two weeks of the preseason is make plays. And all Jim Schwartz wants from his fast-rising defensive end is more.

This they agree on.

Young had one sack, forced a fumble and regularly beat his blockers at the line of scrimmage in the Lions' opening loss to the Browns last week. But when Schwartz was asked to assess Young's performance afterward, he was far from satisfied.

"I mean, he made a couple plays, but he was also out of place on a couple, too," Schwartz said. "Let's not put him in the Hall of Fame yet."

After Young blocked a punt to give the Lions crucial field position in the fourth quarter of Friday's 27-12 win over the Ravens, Schwartz was critical again.

"Still got a long way to go," he said.

Entering just his third NFL season, including a rookie year in which he barely played, Young is only beginning to tap his enormous potential.

At 6-foot-4 with tree-limb arms and less than no fat on his first-off-the-bus body, Young looks like one of the game's great pass rushers. For the Lions defense to be complete this year, they need him to play like one, too.

In that context, Young understands why Schwartz has been so demanding of him this preseason.

His sack-fumble on Brandon Weeden last week -- he also recovered the fumble -- is the type of game-changing play the Lions are counting on him to deliver this year. The two sacks he's let slip out of his grasp this month, including a would-be safety of Tyrod Taylor on Friday, are the sort of plays the Lions can't afford.

"Missing tackles like that, that doesn't work for me," Young said. "I'm not satisfied with that. Even though it's preseason, I'm still not satisfied with it and I can assure you that I'll clean that up."

Singled out by general manager Martin Mayhew this spring as one of Lions' emerging talents, Young has benefitted from the increased reps he's seeing in practice.

He opened camp as co-first-team left end with Lawrence Jackson while Cliff Avril was away from the team in a contract dispute. Avril reported two weeks ago, and about the same right end Kyle Vanden Bosch went down with a knee injury, opening up playing time there.

Jackson and Avril started Friday, and Vanden Bosch is expected back in time for Week 1. But Young still promises to play a big role this year and beyond for a team that rotates eight defensive linemen regularly during the season.

Both Avril and Jackson will be unrestricted free agents this winter; Vanden Bosch turns 34 in November and has been slowed recently by injury.

Young, a restricted free agent after the season, had three sacks in 14 games of spot duty last year. He said he's not worried about the future and he's not playing up to his own lofty expectations yet.

Defensively, he played about half the game Friday -- he said he was on the field for 30-35 snaps mostly with the second-team defense -- and made just one tackle.

On special teams, Young is still getting acquainted with his new role in the middle of the punt rush. He said that's a position he's never played before, and in the locker room Friday his fingers were still stinging from the block that deflected off both hands.

"It's just a different attitude on special teams," Young said. "I have it. I didn't know I had it, but being an athlete, you put an athlete in position, he's going to make a play."

That's something Young's proven time and again this preseason, even as his coach pushes for more.

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