On the 2013 season, Ndamukong Suh has 2.5 sacks, 18 total tackles, one forced fumble. Those numbers are far, far away from the league leads in all categories for defenders. Despite that, those probably aren't the statistics Jim Schwartz is most interested in. It's time for the fans to open their mind, as well.
According to Pro Football Focus, there's one category in which Suh does lead the league convincingly that shows his effectiveness: pressure from the defensive tackle spot. He's put 32 total pressures on the pocket this season. Suh's closest competition? Geno Atkins (26) and Gerald McCoy (24). As far as what Detroit likes to do defensively, the impact of that cannot be understated, especially given the Lions have 10 interceptions through six games
"A lot of it has to do with the guys up front." Schwartz said Monday, regarding the reason that his defense is suddenly tied for the league lead in interceptions. "DeAndre Levy's first interception (Sunday against Cleveland), Suh got the assist on that one. He's barreling in on the quarterback, he's got to get rid of it, and Levy got the interception."
Suh has been doing that plenty in 2013. While many continue to make the mistake of judging Suh strictly based on sacks, forced fumbles, tackles and big plays, all he has done is quietly dominate the middle of the field and command multiple double teams, freeing up other teammates like Ziggy Ansah (3 sacks), Willie Young (2 sacks) and even Stephen Tulloch (2 sacks) to go to work and make more big plays themselves.
That's what leadership is all about, and the likely reason Suh was named a team captain prior to the season. In his rookie year of 2010, Suh set some unrealistic future expectations by winning rookie of the year honors. He had 10 sacks, 66 tackles, a forced fumble, an interception and a touchdown that year, prompting many to wonder what's gone wrong every other season since.
This year, it's not only about the explosions. In football, it's about the team and Suh is helping others on his defense have success, and though he hasn't cleaned up on many sacks, his pressure has corralled many a running back, pressured many a quarterback and led to several interceptions. That's the reason why even though his numbers stay down, Suh continues to quietly remain effective and command so much attention.
Like all great defensive tackles, now, it's finally time to start looking beyond the sacks, big hits and loud plays to see the true way Suh impacts a football game. He's a more complete player, plays a bit more under control and is helping his team just as much as in the past.
"Good things happen when you put pressure on the quarterback," Schwartz added, as part of his Suh soliloquy. He's right, even if that pressure doesn't always result in a sack, tackle or forced fumble.
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