Detroit Lions: Can Ndamukong Suh Repeat His Rookie Performance?

Luis De LeonContributor IIIMarch 29, 2011

Meet Ndamukong Suh, the House of Spears.
Meet Ndamukong Suh, the House of Spears.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Ndamukong Suh was one of the most hyped defensive prospects in recent history.

Justifiably so.

Even fans that don't follow college football are aware Suh dominated at Nebraska.

American sports media do a great job of giving NFL prospects publicity, especially in months leading up to the NFL draft.

The Detroit Lions made Suh the second overall pick in the 2010 draft. There was even talk of him going first overall to the St. Louis Rams.

Suh was the highest defensive tackle drafted since the late Darrell Russell in 1997. The former Oakland Raider was also a second overall pick.

Unlike Russell, it is safe to say Suh will have a trouble-free career.

Nick Fairley is the defensive lineman in this year's draft that is receiving some top pick consideration. He is also drawing comparisons to Suh. Although their styles might be similar, it is unfair to compare Fairley to the Nebraska alumnus.

While Fairley had a great 2010 collegiate season, there are still questions about whether or not he is just a one-year wonder. Suh, on the other hand, had a solid collegiate career over four seasons.

Suh maintained his stock throughout the entire pre-draft phase. Fairley's stock is falling on many draft boards. This may be a result of the one-year wonder questions and character concerns. Character is not a problem with Suh.

The house of spears took the NFL by storm. All he did was become the second rookie defensive tackle in NFL history to record ten sacks.

That number led all rookies. It also led all defensive tackles—veterans included.

Suh has the following awards to reflect his great rookie performance:

  • Pro Bowl selection, NFC starter
  • All-Pro selection (only rookie to be selected)
  • All-Rookie selection
  • AP Defensive Rookie of the Year
  • Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year
  • Sporting News NFL Rookie of the Year
  • Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America Rookie of the Year

Suh didn't play in the Pro Bowl because he needed shoulder surgery. He admitted being hurt since the end of his senior year at Nebraska.

Suh went through the entire scouting and draft process with an injured shoulder, then played through the whole season with it.


In case anybody thinks Suh is being placed on a pedestal, a note must be made that some of his sacks were the result of his teammates collapsing the pocket.

Defensive end Cliff Avril collapsed the pocket most often, causing quarterbacks to step up. The QB would then fall into Suh's arms for the sack.

That cannot be a knock on Suh. Football is a team game.

He also faced multiple double-teams.

In fact, the Steelers' offensive line double-teamed Suh on the first snap in the pre-season. Yes, the pre-season.

Talk about respect.

That brings up the major question: can Ndamukong Suh repeat his rookie performance?

This is not to say Suh will have a sophomore slump. He is expected to be fully healthy this year now that his shoulder got surgically repaired.

Effort isn't a question, either. Offensive linemen that disagree might have to end up lifting their QB off the ground.

Even as Kyle Vanden Bosch enters the twilight of his career, the talent on the Lions' defensive line is expected to remain the same. It's highly unlikely Cliff Avril doesn't return.

The issue is that Suh now has a season under his belt.

NFL teams now have tape of the young DT in a pro uniform. They can analyze what teams did to neutralize him and mistakes made while trying to block him.

Offensive coordinators and coaches will come up with game plans more focused on blocking Suh.

Julius Peppers has had no problem racking up the sacks over the years despite not having another pass-rushing threat to help him out while in Carolina and Chicago.  As the NFL's best DE, teams definitely try to keep him out of the backfield.

However, the case can be made that it's easier to double-team interior pass-rushers like Suh than a pass-rusher on the edge.

Whether those game plans will work against Suh in 2011 remains to be seen. However, the extra attention is likely to decrease his sack numbers.

An eight- or nine-sack season is still very good statistically, especially for a DT. With the high expectations for Suh, it's the four- or five-sack year that might cause people to raise their eyebrows.

Will Gunther Cunningham call stunts more often to get favorable matchups on the edge for Suh?

Will the sports media world confuse the extra attention Suh receives from opposing linemen with a sophomore slump?

His impact and contributions might not fill up the stat sheet the way people expect in future years. But, Suh's presence in the trenches should still have a significant impact for Detroit.

Cliff Avril might have double-digit sacks for the first time in his career.

Kyle Vanden Bosch hasn't had more than 4.5 sacks in any of the previous three seasons. That number may rise if he stays healthy.

Whether it's Sammie Hill or Corey Williams, will the other DT start collapsing the pocket more often, setting the table for the rest of the line?

As a run stopper, Suh will have his fair share of tackles.

Besides that, it wouldn't be surprising if he eventually becomes the DT version of Nnamdi Asomugha and Darrelle Revis. Opposing teams might do everything possible to prevent Suh from pressuring their QB.

It's hard to blame them. Suh doesn't only look to get a sack. He truly is a Lion. He goes for the kill.

Every time No. 90 gets a sack, the QB is at risk of leaving the game with an injury.

Sacks are to linemen what interceptions are to defensive backs.

Suh's sacks may decrease as a result of his presence. Not because of a slip in production.

Same way the aforementioned cornerbacks rarely get interceptions nowadays. Opposing QBs don't even bother to throw towards Revis and Asomugha.

Don't get discouraged if Ndamukong Suh does not fill up the stat sheets every year. He is every bit as dangerous a pass-rusher. It's just that now opposing offenses realize it more than ever.

He should still anchor a relentless defensive front in Detroit for years to come.


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