Webster making strides as a rookie

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- It was the final repetition of one of the more physical drills the Detroit Lions do during their practices. Offensive lineman versus defensive lineman. Usually one-on-one.

The goal for the offensive lineman is to protect the hanging bag, otherwise known as the quarterback. The defensive lineman’s goal is to beat the offensive lineman and then knock the bag down. Larry Webster lined up and saw converted tight end Michael Williams in front of him.

Williams is exceedingly raw as a tackle, still learning the position. Webster is fairly inexperienced as a rookie defensive end who mostly played basketball in college. The rep started. Webster used a fake. And then he ran right over Williams, knocking him to the ground.

Moves like this and power like that led the Lions to use a fourth-round pick on Webster at defensive end, even with the realization he might not be ready to contribute on a major level this season.

Yet, a few weeks into practice, Webster has at least appeared to be a player who is picking things up well. Witness his annihilation of Williams on Tuesday and an increased level of comfort with everything.

“Just more reps,” Webster said. “Once you start to know what you’re doing, it allows you to play faster. Obviously you get more comfortable that way.”

Webster played 26 snaps against Cleveland on Saturday night and also was in on four special teams plays. Those are numbers that should increase -- particularly the defensive reps -- as the preseason moves along and Webster tries to find his niche on this Lions team.

In his debut, he had two tackles, including a tackle for loss, and was one of four Lions to register a quarterback hit. Pro Football Focus also had him with two quarterback hurries.

For a rookie in his first-ever NFL game, that’s not too bad. It might be the biggest key as Webster said he doesn’t feel as inexperienced as maybe he should be.

“Not necessarily,” Webster said. “I didn’t really have as much experience as other people, but I’m gaining experience fast as I’m going through it fast.”

He said his coaches have helped him there, stressing what he has done well along with where he needs to still get better. Considering where he’s coming from -- a small school with a heavy background in another sport -- he still has a lot of room to grow.