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Ndamukong Suh's game needs to lead the Lions

Around the League will examine one key figure under pressure on each team heading into the 2012 season. Next up: The Detroit Lions.

Under Pressure: Ndamukong Suh

It's ironic that in a season in which the Detroit Lions finally showed signs of life as a franchise, their biggest defensive star had a season to forget.

Nose tackle Ndamukong Suh came onto the scene like a wrecking ball in 2010, winning awards and terrorizing offensive lines in a way no rookie should.

That's what made Suh's sophomore campaign such a head-scratcher. His production dipped, and his season was defined by an ugly incident on Thanksgiving Day in which he inexplicably stomped Green Bay Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Suh earned a two-game suspension for the incident, and his inability to own up to the act -- at least initially -- painted him as aloof and petulant.

Now Suh is set to enter his third year in Detroit, and his team needs him to step up in both production and maturity. And in light of the off-the-field incidents that have plagued the Lions this offseason, Suh will be counted on even more to control his temper and raise his game.

Last weekend, after teammate Nick Fairley was arrested on charges of DUI and attempting to elude police, Suh said he would take a bigger leadership role in 2012.

"If I see a guy that needs some help and just might need a word here or (there) just to understand a little bit better," Suh explained. "As (coach Jim Schwartz) uses some of us as starters or guys that have been here a couple years that are still young that say, 'Look at what he's doing' and mimic that or whatever.

"Then I'll say, 'Yeah, this is how I got to this position, this is how I got to my position to get to where coach likes it.' "

Suh's blend of speed and power might be unmatched at the position right now, and the Lions need him to get back to being the destroyer of game plans he was as a rookie. It was Detroit's defense that allowed 626 total yards in an ugly drubbing by the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs.

That loss should stick with Suh and serve as a motivator. He is the face of the defense. He should make it a personal quest to make sure the unit isn't seen as Detroit's weak link.

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