Ndamukong Suh’s Preseason Conduct Seems Questionable, But Lions Need to Feed Off Lineman’s Energy Going Forward


August 28, 2011

Ndamukong Suh's Preseason Conduct Seems Questionable, But Lions Need to Feed Off Lineman's Energy Going Forward Ndamukong Suh wreaked havoc on college quarterbacks while at Nebraska, but the intensity with which he’s played since entering the NFL makes those days seem tame.

But has that intensity crossed a boundary and ventured into the world of insanity?

A quick glance at Suh’s bank account, which the league office has dipped into three times despite only 16 career regular-season games, would certainly say so. But in a sport in which an emotional edge can be so advantageous, Suh’s intensity is actually quite admirable. And the Lions would be wise to build upon that competitive nature, for it could be the difference in them remaining a team poised to become NFC competitors and them actually making that leap.

Suh mixed it up a bit with Patriots guard Logan Mankins during the teams’ preseason matchup on Saturday night. While the incident didn’t result in a penalty and it remains to be seen whether anything comes of it, it at least has people across football talking, as it marks the latest instance of what has become a rather ruthless start to Suh’s career — he’s been fined three times for hits on quarterbacks, with the latest instance coming in the Lions’ preseason opener, when he viciously took down Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

First off, let me be clear: I’m not saying I condone a complete disregard for the NFL’s rules. They’re in place for a reason, most of which is to ensure the safety of the players. And the well-being of the players should always reign supreme in the grand scheme of things, particularly given the dangerous nature of concussions. But to ask Suh to supress his intensity would be an insult to the athletic specimen that he is.

It’s rare that you find a player with so much passion, energy, talent and determination all rolled up into one, and full throttle is the only gear that Suh’s come to know over the course of his playing days at Nebraska and with the Lions. Anything less would deprive us of knowing his full potential.

Yes, Suh has tiptoed the line of what’s considered over-the-top, especially since two of his three fines have come during meaningless preseason games. But the Lions, a franchise that’s won eight games in three seasons and hasn’t had a winning season since 2000, need a player with Suh’s characteristics.

Playing in a division with the Packers, Bears and Vikings (all ranked in the top five for all-time winning percentage), the Lions have essentially always been the odd team out when it comes to defensive prowess and tradition. Suh might not change that single-handedly, but he is a game-changer in every sense of the word.

Since being drafted second overall last April, Suh’s been a defensive menace. Not only did he rack up 10 sacks in his first year in the league en route to being named the 2010 NFL AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, but he’s quickly becoming someone you simply don’t want to tangle with in the trenches if you’re an offensive lineman. It’s as if the physical edge he usually possesses isn’t enough and that he feels the need to also get under your skin.

In 2009, before Suh arrived, the Lions were ranked 29th in the NFL in sacks (26), while giving up a league-worst 4,249 passing yards and 35 passing touchdowns. Last season, the Lions were 6th in the NFL with 44 sacks, while also featuring an improved pass defense, which was due in large part to the ability to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

The main reason for the massive — no pun intended — alteration? You know who. The 6-foot-4, 307-pound lurking monster in the middle.

With Suh entering his second season, the Lions defense should continue to benefit from his ever-improving game. But not only because he’s an immense talent, but because he’s one of those players whose intensity can be contagious. That will be especially important going forward in regard to Nick Fairley, the defensive tackle the Lions selected 13th overall in this year’s draft.

Fairley, a graduate of Auburn, was once considered a potential first overall pick, but his draft stock plummeted mainly because of concerns about his work ethic and character. A little tutelage from Suh, and the Lions have the potential to boast one of the game’s most dominant and fearsome four-man fronts in the NFL before long.

Suh has said that he’s not a dirty player but has admitted that he wants opposing quarterbacks and offensive linemen to fear the Lions. Does he take it a little too far sometimes? Maybe. But it could be the “smack ’em in the mouth” kind of attitude that the Lions need in order to put an end to their historical status as NFC doormats.

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