A pro personnel man who has studied Lions DT Ndamukong Suh this season was asked late this week what stood out about the third-year defensive tackle’s play, an oft-discussed topic. The first thing mentioned by the evaluator was the double-teams Suh has routinely faced.
“He’s a game-wrecker,” said the personnel man, who spoke to PFW on condition of anonymity.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz gave Suh some high praise after the Week 10 loss to the Vikings, saying the third-year defensive tackle “might have played the best game since he’s been here. … Unless they doubled him in pass protection, he was in the quarterback’s lap the whole game.”
Suh notched a sack in the 34-24 loss at Minnesota, giving him 4½ on the season, which is already more than he had in a disappointing 2011 campaign. His tackle numbers, though, have dipped in each of the last two seasons, and he has just 14 in nine games.
Individual statistics, though, are just one way of measuring a defensive lineman’s effectiveness. A look at the Lions-Vikings tape showed that indeed, Suh had to regularly deal with multiple blockers. However, when single blocked by Vikings second-year OG Brandon Fusco, Suh proved to be difficult to handle.
Three third-quarter plays highlighted Suh’s skill set, as well as the problem of judging him solely on his statistics.
On the first play of the quarter, Suh — who gave Fusco fits late in the first half — drew a double-team. DT Nick Fairley, who was single blocked, beat his man and flushed Vikings QB Christian Ponder from the pocket. Although Ponder completed the pass, it was a four-yard gain under duress.
On the Vikings’ next drive, the Vikings faced a 1st-and-goal at the Detroit three. Ponder took the snap and fell. Suh, who had broken free, touched him down at the 10-yard-line.
That was Suh’s lone sack of the game.
On the next play, though, Suh did something perhaps even more impressive and also quite valuable. He beat Fusco and pressured Ponder, who had to dump the ball off to RB Adrian Peterson for no gain. The Lions eventually held the Vikings to a field goal.
Sacks are how Suh will be largely judged, and he’s not on pace to reach the 10 he notched as a rookie. Moreover, his declining tackle numbers can’t be painted as a positive.
Nevertheless, he still demands respect from the opposition.
“He’s still a good player,” the personnel man said.