For the second of these articles, what better way to complete the Saturday set of Wild Card games than by comparing and contrasting another defensive tackle going against an equally accomplished line. Ndamukong Suh hasn’t had the greatest of sophomore years, but here was an opportunity to live up to the hype by making plays against a Pro Bowl interior. The Lions may have come up short but how did Suh measure up?
This season the Lions coaching staff has deliberately cut down on Suh’s snaps. Presumably the plan here is to either allow him more energy later in the game, give other players a chance, extend his playing career, or more likely a combination of all three. In his rookie year he averaged 90% of all defensive snaps, but this year that has been reduced to 78%. Interestingly, that is very close to what he got in this game too (75%), playing almost all of those snaps at left defensive tackle. He was used on two occasions as a left defensive end, but not once on the right side.
As a result, he spent nearly the whole game either one-on-one with Jahri Evans or Zach Strief or double-teamed by the pair (or by Evans and Brian De La Puente). The double teams numbered eight and all occurred on passing plays when the number of blitzers gave an extra blocker; it never appeared to be a pre-snap plan on behalf of the Saints.
In all honesty, double-teaming him even that much looked like overkill as his two hits [NB: one of these has gone down as a sack, I’ll leave it to our analyst to determine the truth of that] on 34 passing plays was not great reward.
His performance in the running game was worse. Moved around at the point of attack and trapped by fullbacks, he was held to a single tackle which occurred after a 10-yard gain on the play before the kneel downs.
In the second quarter with 1:49 remaining, Suh got inside right tackle Strief to pressure Drew Brees into stepping outside and up toward the line of scrimmage. He tracked the quarterback and dragged him down just as he threw the ball away in the direction of his fullback.
Areas of Concern:
Suh did not make a single play of any consequence in 32 snaps in run defense. What happened on Pierre Thomas’ touchdown run was far more typical as Strief easily bundled him inside the run off right tackle and then to ground.
By the numbers:
● Snaps: 66 (75.0% of all plays)
● Running Game: One tackle on 32 running plays
● Passing Game: Two hits (or one hit and one sack) and a hurry on 34 rushing attempts while not dropping in coverage once. He also made a tackle, tracking back on a screen, but only after the first down had been gained.
If I hadn’t tasked myself with watching him all game and the commentators weren’t pushing the regulation amount of Suh talk, I’d have hardly known he was playing. While Jahri Evans has been voted All-Pro, he’s actually had a decent (but hardly top-class) season. As pass protection has never been his strong suit, for Suh to register so little pressure is a very disappointing return.