ALLEN PARK — Not a lot has gone the Lions’ way as they have only won two games. However, the selection of Nebraska’s defensive lineman, Ndamukong Suh, on the first round (2nd overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft, has been a bright spot.
Suh’s aggressiveness and natural instinct has helped make the Lions’ front four the most dominant group on the team.
I’ve seen too many talented athletes in college come to the NFL and flop or simply not live up to the hype. In Suh’s first season in the league, thus far he has shown me that he will not be in the flop category.
Following his career at Nebraska, where he recorded 215 tackles (125 solos) with 24.0 quarterback sacks for minus 187 yards, and 57.0 stops for losses of 252 yards, he elevated the expectations that Lions fans had for him. He has lived up to the hype and more, as he has earned the Pepsi Rookie of the Week award for Week 8. He has returned a fumble against Washington for a touchdown and blocked a pass and intercepted it against St. Louis.
“It is great scoring touchdowns,” Suh said, “but it’s about the sacks, of course. They mean a little bit more to me. They are things that are shutting down their offense; a sack fumble, things of that sort. Just like Kyle (Vanden Bosch) got that, the one (when) I got the recovery for the touchdown. So, I love sacks more.”
Said Lions coach Jim Schwartz: “He’s playing outstanding football for us. He is doing a good job against the run and is a difference maker for us.”
To maximize Suh’s gifts as a mobile defensive tackle, Schwartz and his defensive coaches are tinkering with formations and ways to present him to opposing offenses.
“We will move him around and try to exploit protections and create some matchups,” Schwartz explained. “I think Kris Kocurek, our D-line coach, and Gunther (Cunningham) are doing a really good job with that. We are also balancing our blitz game. Suh is important for us in forcing quarterbacks to throw off schedule.”
It is hard to get too excited about where the Lions are this season when they continue to lose. Yeah, I agree that moral victories are nothing but losses cloaked in unsweeten sugar.
After coming up short in winnable games against the Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and New York Giants, many are now focusing on what is wrong with the Lions and rightfully so.
But the play of Suh has made me more patient about where general manager Martin Mayhew and Schwartz is leading this team. Still I understand and agree that the fans have a right to expect a team to win games.
However, Mayhew’s 2009 Draft, getting three players with measurable potential, quarterback Matthew Stafford, tight end Brandon Pettigrew and safety Louis Delmas, was solid. Stafford being the x-factor due to continued problems with injuries. Then the Lions second year GM snatched Suh and running back Jahvid Best. I like both his drafts, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Detroit fans are obviously very in-tune to their football and they love it,” Suh said. “They deserve to have a team that they can be proud of. We have not given them as many wins as we would have liked, but this is a good team. We have some players that want to win and are giving it all they have game after game.”
At 6-foot-4, 307 pounds, Suh can look in the mirror without question and tell himself he has played with determination and grit. I think what has made him special for a 300-pound defensive tackle is his balance and footwork. Much of which he learned playing soccer up until the eighth grade.
“I got a little big for soccer,” he said, “and I started getting too many red cards. I definitely have grown to love football; It’s fun to kind of beat up on those little guys.”
I say keep having fun, big fella, and the wins will start to come — I hope!
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.