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With three first-round picks in the last four years, expectations are high for this unit.
They have delivered.
I believe Ndamukong Suh should be the NFL Defensive Player of the Month for September. He has the highest grade of all defensive tackles from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and has consistently wreaked havoc in opposing backfields. Aside from the one ridiculous penalty, he's kept his head, too.
Nick Fairley has a fumble recovery for a touchdown, but has not played all that well. A shoulder injury has marred his season, as have penalties.
Ziggy Ansah has proven Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz correct in taking him fifth overall last April. He has 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble, and he has also lost two forced fumbles and sacks to penalties.
The one starter who wasn't a first-round pick is end Willie Young, and he's often played like a first-round pick this year. His pass rushing has been fantastic, but earning at least one penalty in each of the first five halves of the season is troubling.
The depth has not been great. C.J. Mosley is adequate as a run-stuffer inside, but veteran end Israel Idonije looks very long in the tooth. Jason Jones was not playing well before a knee injury prematurely ended his season.
Rookie Devin Taylor has shown promise as a pass-rusher in limited duty.
This unit gets docked a full letter grade for penalties.