Not Suhrprising. Or Is It?

Defensive tackles and offensive lineman are like soccer in this country – to you anyway (I like the sport). You don’t really care about it/them or watch it because there’s no scoring and no statistics. Seriously, if soccer was more stat heavy, Americans would have far greater interest in it. Us, Americans, we love our WAR RBIs and ERAs!

If you were a former lineman at any level of play, I’m sure you’ve got a keener eye and a more innate interest for non-defensive end (DEs = easy stat, the sack) line play in the NFL. But for the most part, the rest of can only gauge how good a DT or any player on the offensive line is by what we’re told by either the game announcers, or some ex-lineman on an NFL show who wants to make sure his brethren get their due in the world of the much higher profile and more recognizable skill players.

Let’s do a for instance shall we?

Jake Long. Former top overall pick, ahead of Matt Ryan, who’s in his 5th year with the Dolphins. I said the name and you instantly thought of Long being, one, an ex-Wolverine, and two, one of the league’s cornerstone left tackles.

Right, and wrong. Really wrong, apparently.

This decade’s Orlando Pace Long is not.

Long is actually pretty lousy these days and getting worse by the week.

The truth is Long has not been playing up to his previous standards. The truth is Long is in the third season of a progressive decline because he played better in 2009 than in 2010, he played better in 2010 than 2011 and this has been his worst season so far. Publicly, Long is putting on a good face and chiseled chin on his troubles. When he was asked this week if he’s playing as well now as last season he said, “yes,” without hesitation. But privately, everyone knows that isn’t right. The truth is Long’s play has fallen so far off from an elite level he is more often mired in mediocrity than lifted up in excellence.

If there was a mainstream stat for Number of Double Teams Per Game (NDTPG for short), perhaps we’d more often recognize and legitimize the greatness of some of the men on this list from last year of the NFL’s best DTs. Is Ngata even the third player you think of on the Ravens defense?

Until that stat’s created, we’ve gotta give up waiting for the glam plays and crunching big hits and watch the LOS during an NFL game, form our opinions based on the broadcasters calling the game, or signup for the All 22 coaches tape and break down plays on our own free time. You could probably go re-watch games on your DVR also, but re-watching games has to be tedious and time consuming. To be totally forthcoming, if I didn’t have to follow a lot of everything – ya know, astutely offering Dave Dombrowski my hot stove advice – I’d be watching tons of NFL tape. NBA stuff as well. I loathe not knowing as much I can possibly know about something. There’s only so many hours in a day though!

You wanna do any of that?

Even if we did hone our attention to just the line play, there’s no way we could see the head to head nuances that occurs among, let’s see we’ll do 9 linemen times 275lbs, 2,475lbs of professional athletic girth. In that mess of muscle and humanity is likely where Ndamukong Suh gets his reputation as a dirty player, for things we as viewers will never ever see.

Ahhh yes Suh. His stats are down from his rookie year, we’re aware of that. But he’s been double teamed more, right!? Especially last year, right?! That’s why Avril had the year he did. Suh has to be among the league leaders in NDTPG, right?!

I know you’re not intently focusing on Suh for all 60 some defensive plays for game. If you are, bless you. The rest of us are watching the ball. Even if you wanted to be an LOS dork, the networks won’t let you because their cameras follows the spheroid.

Give me an instinctual answer, ready. What kind of year is Suh having?

Don’t answer that.

The best resolution to that question I can find comes from Why not the typical football sites? I think describing line play probably makes for a dull read, and doesn’t drive page views online as analyzing QB play and discussing and dissecting more traditional stats. Is Calvin going to break Rice’s yardage record is far easier for most fans to have an interest in than a mostly stat-less position.

I’m willing to accept this analysis on Suh, are you? I think you’ll be quite suprised. Or maybe you won’t be.

From after the Vikings loss where Schwartz effusively praised his DTs…

Let’s be completely honest. The Lions’ defensive line this year has been a disappointment. They’ve failed to generate enough pressure, are still susceptible to the same old plays (like the Vikings’ constantly using a fullback or tight end to trap block Ndamukong Suh) and commit too many penalties. While Nick Fairley is as guilty as anyone in that regard (he now has seven penalties on the year), he continues to be the bright spot on this line. He got constant penetration, chiefly on Charlie Johnson, to pick up a sack, hit and three hurries while also adding two defensive stops in the run game. He’s up to a +8.8 rating on the year (with a -5.8 grade for all the penalties) and is only getting better the more he plays.

From the preview of the Green Bay game…
It’s not been a vintage 2012 for Ndamukong Suh. Our 34th-ranked defensive tackle isn’t the liability he was in the run game at times, nor is he the explosive pass rusher he’s been in the early portion of his career. Lining up nearly exclusively from the defensive left tackle spot in the Lions’ vanilla pass rushing scheme, the consistency just isn’t there, and it’s hard to see that changing this week when he goes up against Josh Sitton. The Packer is our third-ranked right guard currently and while he’s not a mauler in the run game, his work in pass protection remains some of the best of any interior lineman.
After the loss to the Texans… 

Did he kick a guy in the family jewels? Only he knows what his intention was, but the three-hit and seven-hurry day of Suh (+8.1) sure did make it seem like he had a problem with the Texan QB. Those are big pressure numbers, even coming off 45 rushes of the passer, but it was the speed at which the pressure came that was telling. Schaub averaged a time to throw of 2.54 seconds, with 32 of his drop-backs seeing him attempt a pass (or get sacked) in less than 2.5 seconds, so he was hardly holding on to the ball. No, this was a case of Suh just being too powerful for starter Ben Jones and rotational right guard Antoine Caldwell. Look at the hit he picked up on Caldwell with 2:54 to go in the first half, and the hurry he got on Schaub with 4:32 to go in overtime. This may very well have been his best performance as a Lion.

How about that. Best performance as a Lion last Thursday. However, our gut seems to be mostly right about Suh since his rookie year. He’s not as good as he once was. And on a team where the quarterback has been inconsistent, and has even possibly plateaued for the moment, I’m not surprised that a certain player’s game hasn’t improved, even if his numbers from his rookie season will be impossible to top.

Broadcasters may not like Suh, and because of that, they may subconsciously avoid pointing out when he’s been as disruptive as we’d like. Even then, I think I’ll continue offer an opinion about non-defensive end line play in a rather archaic, but seemingly accurate way. How many times do I hear that player’s name mentioned on the broadcast. Easy enough. That way I can watch the bodies and ball fly around the field.


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