Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is known for his ability to “develop” defensive talent in preparation for “specific roles.” He’s flourished in the development role everywhere he has been.
It should be noted that under Schwartz’s tutelage in Tennessee, Haynesworth was widely regarded as the most dominant defensive tackle in the league—a title now owned by the run stuffing, quarterback assassin Ndamukong Suh.
In the 2011 NFL Draft, adamant on selecting talent over need, the Lions walked away with the one of the drafts greatest talents, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
If I had to compare Fairley’s abilities to another defensive tackle in the NFL it would be Detroit’s own Ndamukong Suh. Suh and Fairley are high-motor football players that boast a merciless seek and destroy mentality.
I believe that the Lions are looking at the same impact that the 49ers enjoyed in the mid-to-late 90’s with the dominant duo of defensive tackles Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield.
You throw in the combination of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril from the defensive end positions, and you’ve got a recipe that will significantly alter opposing offensive game plans in 2011.
Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz have collaborated to build one of the most dominant front four in the NFL.
Here are my statistical projections for Detroit’s “starting” front four in the 2011 NFL Regular Season.
Detroit received high praise for the selection of Nick Fairley, who was thought to be the “steal” of the 2011 draft. Many analysts had Fairley projected to go in the top 1-5 selections of the 1st round.
Astonishingly, Fairley was still available to Detroit at the 13th overall selection. Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz didn’t hesitate to draft Fairley at 13, even though Detroit had taken defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with the 2nd overall selection the prior year.
Fairley’s potential to dominate in the NFL was too great to pass up.
Fairley displays rare speed and quickness for a player of his size. He’s a versatile athlete with a good initial burst off the snap, who could potentially dominate inside or outside.
At Auburn Fairley dominated opponents with his quickness. His ability to punch and rip through blocks allows him to square up, locate, and annihilate ball carriers, without needing much space to gather momentum.
Detroit fans have heard that scouting report before (Suh 2010), a great omen for the 2011 season.
Nick Fairley possesses a Lawrence Taylor mentality.
“I play the game the way it should be played. I hit a light switch when I hit the field and it doesn’t turn off until after I leave.” Fairley said.
It’s a mentality that garnered him numerous personal foul penalties during his senior year at Auburn.
Fairley is ruthless in his pursuit of the ball carrier, and that high-motor that I spoke of earlier will be prominent in Detroit’s defensive game plans throughout the 2011 Regular Season.
Fairley couldn’t have stepped into a better situation in the NFL. Paired with Suh, Fairley will be a menace to opposing offenses, and someone they will need to game-plan heavily for.
Fairley and Suh are the reason I’m a offensive coordinator at the high school level, and not in the NFL. I wouldn’t even know how to begin to scheme to block both Suh and Fairley—I don’t even know that it’s possible.
I envision opposing offenses utilizing three step quarterback drops in their quick passing game.
With a suspect secondary, that is exactly what Detroit is looking for.
2011 Projections: 49 Tackles – 8 Sacks – 4 Forced Fumbles
You know exactly what you’re getting with a guy like Kyle Vanden Bosch. KVB is the definition of high-motor, and will never be outworked.
He is the only Detroit Lions defenseman that has been selected to more than one Pro Bowl. He is someone that I believe that Suh can attribute much of his 2010 success to.
In only 11 games in 2010 KVB racked up 49 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 pass deflection, and 3 forced fumbles.
His leadership on the field is only surpassed by his leadership off the field. Vanden Bosch is the general of this young Detroit Lions team, and someone who has a strong future in coaching at the NFL level.
2011 Projections: 56 Tackles – 5 Sacks – 3 Forced Fumbles
First of all, let me begin by saying that I am extremely high on Cliff Avril. He has the tools to be dominant in the NFL.
With so much emphasis being placed on Detroit’s interior defensive line in 2011, the Lions will look to attack opposing quarterbacks with Avril’s power and speed coming off the edge.
The impact of Suh in 2010 proved to provide the opening on the defensive front that Avril needed. If Suh and Fairley are even remotely successful in the upcoming season, Avril should put up career numbers.
In only 13 games in 2010, Avril posted a career best 8.5 sacks and 5 pass deflections.
If Detroit can stay healthy, Cliff Avril will be Honolulu bound in 2011.
2011 Projections: 42 Tackles – 13 Sacks – 4 Forced Fumbles
Ndamukong Suh raised a few eyebrows in saying that there is no reason that the Lions can’t go 16-0 in 2011.
Understand that Suh isn’t saying that the Lions will go undefeated in 2011; he’s saying that the Lions are capable.
“Like I said before, we can go 16-0,” Suh told the Detroit News. “One of the reasons I’m saying this is because we should shoot for the top. And if you don’t want to be a Super Bowl team, what are you playing for? If you are satisfied with winning games and just making the playoffs, I think you should expect more. There is more to just playing and trying to win games. That is my mentality and that is my approach. We should come in with the attitude of the sky is the limit and we want to be the best.”
It’s plainly obvious that Suh is attempting to motivate his teammates with his quotes in the media.
Players like Suh aren’t and haven’t ever been people that require motivation.
It’s in his attitude and the way he carries himself. He has set the bar high for the Detroit Lions in 2011.
As for outside perceptions of this young Detroit Lions team, it only took one player to make a change.
2011 Projections: 67 Tackles – 7.5 Sacks – 4 Forced Fumbles