ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah hasn't practiced since the start of training camp. He's been on the physically unable to perform list and has shown few signs of coming off it.
Yet Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell sounded cautiously optimistic Tuesday about the pass-rusher's availability for Week 1 even though Ansah hasn't practiced this preseason.
"I'm not a soothsayer. I'm not a prognosticator," Caldwell said. "... I can't tell the future. I can’t predict that. But I feel good about it. But anything can happen these days. You just don't know."
Ansah did some light jogging Tuesday at practice -- the first time he's been spotted doing that this preseason. Having him in the lineup gives Detroit its best hope for a sustained pass rush. With Ansah suffering injuries for much of last season the Lions struggled to maintain any pressure. Some of that could be mitigated this season by the potential for a better interior pass rush, led by A'Shawn Robinson, but having Ansah as an edge rusher who can come close to his Pro Bowl-caliber play in 2015 would benefit Detroit greatly.
Ansah, who is entering the final year of his contract, had two sacks last season (and another two in the playoffs) but had the best season of his career in 2015, when he had 47 tackles, 14.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
The Lions tied for 30th in sacks last season (26) and allowed an NFL record in opposing completion percentage. Whether the Lions can generate a pass rush this season will remain a mystery at least until the opener against Arizona.
If for some reason Ansah can't play in the opener, it might take longer.
"I'm not sure I'll be able to let you know that 'til we get into the real things," Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. "At that point, we'll find out. I don't know if I have an answer for you right now."
If Ansah is healthy, the Lions have their front four likely set with Ansah, Haloti Ngata, Robinson and Cornelius Washington. Tackle Akeem Spence and end Anthony Zettel have pretty defined roles, too, and have shown the ability to get to the quarterback in practices and games.
Beyond them, it's all a bunch of questions -- a lot like the pass rush itself.