Ndamukong Suh has been a force in the NFL since he was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the second overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Suh has helped revive a franchise and a defense that has been at the bottom of the pack for years.
However, Suh has struggled so far in his third season, tallying just 13 tackles in seven games. In his first seven games last season he brought players down 23 times.
Suh has been mostly quiet this season. He finally spoke up on Monday Night Football against Jay Cutler and the Bears. Suh brought Cutler down in what many called a “dirty and vicious hit.”
There are tons of people out there who think Suh is a cheap player. According to a Sportsnation poll on ESPN, over 66 percent of fans who voted agree that Suh is dirty. After this hit that Suh put on Jay Cutler on Monday Night Football, he might have bumped up that percentage a few more points.
Critics may agree that Suh is a dirty player, but whether he is or not, the question presented is whether Suh will be able to get back on track after the hit and associated media scrutiny. The answer is yes.
Suh has been quiet this year on a solid Detroit defense which ranks sixth in the lead against the pass. The issue for Suh and the Lions is that they are just the 16th best against the run, giving up over 100 yards on the ground every game.
This hit is exactly what Suh and the Lions need to get pumped up and start living up to their expectations. Whether the hit was dirty or not (according to the Chicago Sun-Times, the NFL decided it wasn’t), it can be a huge motivator for the Lion’s defense as they move on.
As for Suh, this is a good sign. Detroit fans haven’t seen much of the vicious Suh putting big hits on opposing quarterbacks until now. This may be a sign that Suh is starting to play wide open again and is ready to be that unstoppable force that we saw in 2010 and 2011.
While Suh may not be putting up the numbers we’ve seen in the past, we have to remember a few things. First, Suh’s production has dropped each year. In his amazing first season in the NFL, Suh was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and was the first Lion named to the Pro Bowl in his first season since Barry Sanders. Suh wrangled opponents down 66 times in his rookie campaign. In his second year, Suh had just 36 tackles.
This season Suh has been consistent with two tackles in every game, except on Monday Night Football against the Bears. His “dirty” hit on Cutler was his only tackle of the game.
Another factor that we have to take into account is the rest of the Lions defense. Since the signing of Suh in 2010, the Lions have added Nick Fairley and Willie Young, who both had double digit tackles in 2011. With more good players coming to the Lions, Suh will play less snaps and have fewer opportunities to shine.
Another possibility for Suh’s lower numbers may be what I call the “Clay Matthews Effect.” The Clay Matthews Effect is, basically, teams start recognizing that Suh is one of the best on the team and will start to adjust plays and schemes accordingly. With teams more aware of Suh’s skill than they were during his rookie season, they’ll find ways to get away from him.
Maybe Suh is still trying to adjust his game. Last November, Suh met with league officials to discuss his rough play. Perhaps Suh is heeding the words of the higher-ups and is trying to change his game.
Whether teams are planning against him or the roster is getting better, there’s nothing wrong with Suh. Suh has been playing average football this season and getting a huge play against Jay Cutler and the Bears on Monday night is just what the doctor ordered. Suh has always played very emotional football and having all the negative media can be a great inspiration for players to play at a higher level.
Expect Suh and the Lions to get back on track defensively in the coming weeks. Will they get wins? Now that’s a different story.