Detroit Lions  

 

Lions' tandem of Suh, Fairley could give division foes fits

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There's a certain element of DNA that coaches desire in defensive linemen. We'll refer to it as toughness, although the football translation is a tad more profane.

Detroit's Ndamukong Suh has it. Oh, he has a lot of it. Catch him on the wrong day -- namely Sundays -- and you'll probably get a large dose of it. He might not have as much, though, as new teammate Nick Fairley, the occasionally dirty and frequently penalized defensive tackle from Auburn who surprisingly fell into the Lions' lap at Pick No. 13 on Thursday.

Fairley and Suh will be a WWE tag team of, ahem, toughness that gives the Lions an identity that could routinely stress opposing interior lines and hide some of the shortcomings in the next two levels of the defense.

They also could expose some of the shortcomings of the offensive lines of Chicago and Minnesota. Both the Bears and Vikings have shown cracks and the speed and turmoil Suh and Fairley could deliver has surely caught their attention. The Super Bowl champion Packers got more solid up front with the drafting of OT Derek Sherrod in the first round, but Detroit has more than just this tandem to concern them.

With nose tackle Corey Williams, who's also a nasty dude, Detroit boasts a rotation of defensive tackles that allows it to mix and match interior combinations in short- and long-yardage situations. Suh and Fairley are also athletic enough that, at times, they can be slotted at defensive end. That gives the Lions the potential to do with their interior players what the Giants used to do with ends Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.

On the issue of ends, let's finally get to Kyle Vanden Bosch. We know how rugged he is and his presence is going to make Fairley even better. What's the knock we heard on Fairley coming out of Auburn? His motor isn't always running at full speed. Vanden Bosch knows no other way to play.

Fairley better take his cues from Vanden Bosch or else ... Suh, who plays at another level, would open up a can of something to reinforce the point.

Yes, Fairley and Suh are pretty similar in the positions they play but that's okay. To be able to rotate those guys is scary. Coach Jim Schwartz, who got the most out of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee, will figure out ways to play them effectively together.

Teams are in constant search to find interior tandems. Tampa Bay, which spent its first two picks on Thursday and Friday on pass-rushing ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers, used its first two draft picks last year on DTs Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, because re-setting the offensive line between the tackles is one of the most confounding things to an offense in the run and passing games.

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Minnesota proved that for years with Kevin and Pat Williams leading the way for the Vikings. Unlike the Williams Wall, the Lions' defensive tackles have more flexibility, especially now that Pat Williams is 38.

As for Fairley, I spoke to a defensive coordinator and a general manager last week who raved about him. He had 24 tackles for loss last season, more than double the output of No. 3 overall pick Marcell Dareus (11th overall pick). He simply dominated games against top competition, added the coordinator.

While another knock is that Fairley isn't overly strong in his upper body, the GM said that was because he only had one season in a major college's strength program. A season or two in an NFL program and he could be a monster, the GM said.

He also has that particular DNA.

That's why Schwartz's chin had to hit the floor when Fairley was there at No. 13. He probably wasn't someone they were expecting, but sometimes the best player available comes unexpectedly. Sometime came Thursday night for Detroit.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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