Ndamukong Suh's hit on Andy Dalton over the weekend caused the defensive tackle to speak out in his own defense on accusations he is a dirty player. Suh said: "There's always a fine line of dirtiness and a fine line of aggressiveness. ... I haven't crossed that line." Suh was fined twice as a rookie for illegal hits -- one on Jake Delhomme, the other on Jay Cutler -- and he has been tagged $20,000 for the Dalton hit. Question: Does Suh need to tone it down, or should he continue to play as he feels, fines be damned?
Slam QBs gently? Don't count on it
This has a bit of a James Harrison feel to it, in that Suh only knows one way to play. Could he learn to slam quarterbacks more gently to the turf over time? I'm not so sure.
I see a procession of fines in his future and we all will watch closely to see if the NFL institutes some of the suspensions for repeat offenders that have been talked about. And frankly, as long as the hits are not so over the top and blatant, I suspect the Lions can live with Suh's on-field mean streak as well.
Suh could hurt StaffordIn terms of aggressive play, Suh doesn't need to tone down his attitude, temperament or style of play. He does need to pick his spots and be smart. He could be developing a reputation, which could work against him when he makes a clean play but gets flagged or fined. That could come back to hurt his team. I love how he plays and I wish more guys competed the way he does. Suh just needs to understand that there's only so many times he can get away with de-capping a quarterback and then adding a little off-the-top-turnbuckle-body-slammage before it comes back to hurt him.
Suh also better realize that he doesn't want anyone giving some of that back to his quarterback, Matthew Stafford. Retribution will happen and if it results in another Stafford injury, the Lions will be looking at 6-10 instead of the other way around.
Lions should encourage SuhSwagger might be one of the most overused words in sports, but whatever it is, the Lions need more of it.
When was the last time any team was intimidated by playing the Lions -- was it in your lifetime? Playing the Lions has been the NFL equivalent of the Washington Generals. The Lions tried to change their image by adding black to the uniforms a few years ago. But those cosmetic fixes only go so far when Joey Harrington is the one wearing a dark jersey.
So the Lions not only need Suh to straddle the line, but also should encourage him to cross it from time to time.
I'm not saying that you put a bounty on Aaron Rodgers. I mean, it is not like you are a University of Miami booster. But if I'm Lions management, I certainly would not blink if Suh racks up some more fines for getting a little rough with opposing quarterbacks.
In fact, I would mandate that Suh grow one of those goatees prevalent on professional wrestling heels and embrace the attitude.
Nothing dirty about itSuh only needs to tone down illegal hits that are dirty in nature, like his Jake Delhomme "makeover." Aside from that hit, Suh's intensity and skill is a model for all players to follow. Yes, he might play to the echo of the whistle, but what coach or team wouldn't want the same from their own guys? Certainly not coach Jim Schwartz or defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. Dirty play? Not from my vantage point.
Lions defense has mystique nowSuh needs to continue to be aggressive. His ferocious style intimidates foes and creates a mystique around the defense that plays in the unit's favor. Granted, the penalties can ultimately cost the team in critical situations, but his aggressiveness has produced tremendous results and I would be hesitant to tweak that part of his game. In football, the team that outhits the opponent typically wins. Suh's physicality has certainly helped the Lions.
Second coming of Reggie WhiteSuh is a great player with the ability to dominate physically, but he's not dirty. Most defensive linemen would love to have his abilities. Go back and look at some of the things Reggie White did in his time and ask yourself how he would be viewed today. Suh will be fined again in his career but to ask him to pull back is unrealistic and not what the Lions are going to do. Do you think anyone ever asked Ray Lewis to tone it down? Play smart is the only advice the Lions will have for him.
Difficult balancing actIt's hard to tell any player in a position like that to tone down his aggression or attitude, since those traits can be the very things it takes to survive in that area of the game. But what Suh does need to realize is that, because of the kind of player he is, there will a brighter spotlight on his actions and he needs to comport himself accordingly. Jim Schwartz's defenses (see: Haynesworth, Albert) have always been around that line of going overboard, and if Suh needs that to play at his highest level, he'll have to learn to straddle it more effectively.