Defensive end Willie Young will have every opportunity to play more for the Lions this year.

The last two seasons Young played behind Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, and although young players can occasionally leap veterans for playing time, Young said he never had a fair chance to fight for a starting job.

This year his stiffest competition will come from free-agent signee Jason Jones -- who has never had more than five sacks in a season -- and a slew of unproven defensive ends, including No. 1 pick Ezekiel Ansah.

“I’ve never taken anything for granted, but it will probably be more of an honest opportunity with the two starters gone from last year,” Young said. “Those are two guys I definitely looked up to and learned as much as I could from them while they were here, but now I think this is probably the most honest opportunity this year to get some quality, quality snaps.”

As a seventh-round pick in 2010, Young only played in two games.

Then, as a reserve in 2011, he collected three sacks in 14 games and showed signs of a potential breakout in 2012.

But Young had no sacks in 16 games last year and fell to the fourth defensive end option behind Lawrence Jackson.

“Everything doesn’t always go as you plan,” he said. “Doesn’t change my attitude.

“Definitely going to continue to come out here and work hard, get better at whatever I need to get better at and keep moving forward.”

Lions coach Jim Schwartz didn’t give any insight into Young's struggles last season, but said he can use OTAs to improve his technique, communication and consistency.

“Those are all things that can help him to be able to show what he can do once we get to training camp,” Schwartz said.

For business reasons, Young likely won't be given the first shot at a starting job in 2013 either. His one-year deal for $1.5 million pales in comparison to the contracts for Jones (three years, $9.5 million) and Ansah (four years, $18.6 million).

But Jones didn't start any games for the Seahawks last year, and Ansah has only played football for three years.

So although it won’t be easy to earn a starting job, Young expects more of a fair shake.