The House of Spears: Why Ndamukong Suh Will Go Down as the Greatest DT Ever

Kraig LundbergAnalyst IIIJanuary 15, 2011

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 30:  Ndamukong Suh #93 of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers looks on during the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl against University of Arizona Wildcats on December 30, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Cornhuskers defeated the Wildcats 33-0. (Photo By Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

"Ndamukong Suh: The greatest defensive tackle to ever play the game of football."

Could this be the former Blackshirt's title at the end of his already-incredible career?  I wouldn't doubt it.

In fact, it seems he's already on his way there.

Suh burst onto the scene as a junior at the University of Nebraska, Bo Pelini's elite defensive tutelage shining through.  As a senior, he won the Lombardi, Outland, Nagurski and Bednarik awards and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

After an illustrious career at Nebraska, Suh put an exclamation point on his first season in the NFL by getting picked as a unanimous Pro Bowl selection.

Despite the fact that he cannot play in the game due to ill-timed shoulder surgery, Suh was the first Lions rookie to be a Pro Bowl selection since Barry Sanders.

Pretty good company, wouldn't you say?

Nevertheless, at this stage in Suh's career, it's impossible to peg him as the best to play the game.


In anticipation of that possible day, I offer up some evidence as to why Ndamukong Suh could go down as the best defensive tackle ever.

Before the 2010 NFL Draft, "experts" were debating on who was the better DT prospect between Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy.

For reasons beyond me, some thought that McCoy was the more prototypical NFL DT, with a quicker first step and better pass rushing skills (Suh actually totaled over double the sacks McCoy did in 2009).

Many also questioned Suh's ability to translate to the next level.  Would he be able to handle the NFL's offensive linemen?

Detroit ended up going with Suh, and they were not disappointed.

Suh exploded in his rookie season, racking up 66 tackles, 10 sacks, a forced fumble, an interception and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown—unbelievable numbers for any defensive tackle.

By contrast, McCoy's totals were 28 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles.

Suh's numbers blew away most of the NFL's premier defensive tackles, and even stacked up nicely against some of the NFL's all-time greats in past years. 

In 2010, Vince Wilfork posted 57 tackles and two sacks, Richard Seymour posted 48 tackles and 5.5 sacks and Haloti Ngata posted 63 tackles and 5.5 sacks.

Kevin Williams recorded 70 tackles, 11.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in 2004.  Albert Haynesworth posted 51 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 2008.  Each player was widely known as the best DT in the league during those respective seasons.

Suh's numbers can even stand up to the great Warren Sapp, who averaged 7.5 sacks per season.

But there's a distinct difference between Suh and all of these great players.

Average the numbers of each of these players' rookie seasons, and you get 38 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

That's a far cry from Suh's incredible rookie numbers.

One could make an argument against Suh with Williams' rookie numbers, which were almost as impressive as Suh's.

Could Suh be a statistical one or two-year wonder and then taper off?

Unlikely, but possible.  However, that assumption should not be made based on a comparison between Suh and Williams.

First of all, from a strictly statistical standpoint, Suh had a considerably more distinguished college career than Williams. 

Suh totaled 214 tackles, 57 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and two touchdowns in his college career while Williams recorded 160 tackles, 38 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks in his.

In addition, Williams began his first year in the NFL at defensive end, which is a position that naturally records more sacks than tackle.

Furthermore, Williams has developed character concerns with off-the-field troubles, while Suh's record has been spotless.  A good attitude goes a long way in a player's development.

Even though the numbers don't lie, Suh's talents go beyond the statistics.

Suh has an incredible blend of quickness, power and technique.  His ability to fight through blocks is jaw-dropping and his power strikes fear into opposing quarterbacks' hearts.

Suh combines those with a relentless motor and a nasty on-field demeanor.  In one play earlier this season, Suh pulled a quarterback down so ferociously that the officials initially threw a flag for a facemask.

Upon review, they realized he hadn't grabbed the facemask but instead had just grabbed the shoulder pads.

So, in light of Suh's Pro Bowl selection, does he deserve to be called the best in the game?

My guess is he'd be the first one to tell you he still has a long way to go.  Still, House of Spears Suh controls his own destiny, and may be well on his way to becoming the best defensive tackle to ever play the game of football.

He's got to live up to that household name somehow, right?

Not that he hasn't already.


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