Lions Suh, Calvin Johnson named Pro Bowl starters
Most NFL rookie defensive tackles find it takes a few seasons to adjust to the rigors of the NFL.
Lions’ defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is not most rookies.
Suh was recognized for his strong rookie season by being named to the Pro Bowl when the announcement was made Tuesday night.
He will be joined as a Pro Bowl starter by Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson who will make his first trip to the Pro Bowl as a starter. He was a Pro Bowl alternate last year.
Johnson has rewritten the Lions’ record books this season. In the first 15 games he has a dozen touchdowns and 1,120 receiving yards. It’s the second time in four seasons in Detroit he’s gone over the 1,100-yard mark.
On Sunday in the win over the Dolphins, Johnson recorded just the third season in Lions’ history with at least 75 receptions, 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns and the first one to do it twice. The only other Lion to accomplish the feat was Herman Moore in 1994.
Suh was taken with the second overall pick in April’s draft out of Nebraska. The Lions have never second-guessed themselves. Their expectations were high and he has not let them down.
He was a hit from the first preseason game when he was double-teamed by the Steelers.
His learning curve was substantially lower than most rookie defensive linemen. There are a few reasons.
"First, where he was when he came in, I mean, he was a pretty good player to start with. So it wasn’t like he was a player that needed development,’’ Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
“There were a lot of things that he needed to do differently that he didn’t do in college. He was a read player in college, we turned him into an attack player. He adjusted pretty early to that, even though early in the season he still had a tendency at times to go back. But you’re talking about a guy that was very productive in college, had a long college career and history of production,’’ Schwartz added.
In his first 15 NFL games he’s accumulated nine sacks which is tops among rookie defensive linemen and also leads all defensive tackles in sacks. Suh also leads all rookie defensive linemen with 60 tackles. The next closest is Dan Williams who plays for Arizona with 37.
For Suh, there he has not hit a rookie wall, instead he seems to have scaled it.
"It’s a long season – something you’re not used to. You need to be able to persevere through a lot of different situations and there were some things that came up this year that he needed to persevere through and he needed to be able to adjust,’’ Schwartz said. “Seeing different attention with different blocking schemes and stuff like that, but found a way to be productive and could be even more productive – missed a sack late in the game which would have put him at the 10 mark, which would have been big for him."
When he reached nine sacks during Sunday’s win at Miami he tied for the third-most sacks in a single Lions season by a defensive tackle with Jerry Ball who had nine in 1982.
If Suh gets one sack in Sunday’s game against the Vikings, he will become the first rookie defensive lineman in the NFL since Bears DE Mark Anderson (12 in 2006) to record 10 sacks in a season. If he reaches the magic number 10 he will become just the fifth rookie defensive tackle to reach 10 since 1982.
No wonder he has become a fan favorite at Ford Field.
It could be the first of many Pro Bowl trips as a starter for Suh and Johnson.
(Paula Pasche covers the Lions. Follow her on Twitter @PaulaPasche. Read her Lions Lowdown blog at oplions.blogspot.com.)