ESPN Insider columnist KC Joyner posted an article about how Schwartz, Cunningham, & Co. plan on using Ndamukong Suh and draftee Nick Fairley in their 4-3 Defense. Joyner begins the article by pointing out that the Steelers used a similar draft strategy in 1987 to this year's Lions who added Nick Fairley, a star defensive tackle, to an already strong group at that position. The Steelers drafted two LBs in their draft in '87 to an already deep squad, and made it to seven of the next ten playoffs.
Joyner analyzes Suh's and Fairley's run defense, using a statistic called POA (Point of Attack) wins. He explains, "one measure of success for a defense is how often it wins at least one Point of Attack (POA) block on a rushing attempt. Ballcarriers usually average only one to two yards per carry when this happens, so a victory here is quite important." Suh and Fairley had 23 POA wins in 16 games and 18wins in 8 games, respectively. An interesting note is that only a small percentage of both Suh's and Fairley's POA wins were against double teams. This is a major point because the offense can only double team one defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense, leaving the other to one blocker.
Gunther Cunningham, the Lions Defensive Coordinator, is obviously aware of this weakness in a blocking scheme, and is looking to expose it next season. In talking with Joyner, Cunningham said "as far as Suh and Fairley playing together in the same front, [the offense] will have to make a decision on which way to slide the center and take the two to block one of them. We will have to figure out what the offense has in mind and work with the one that gets the single block from the guard."
Joyner sums this up by saying, "Translation: Good luck to the guard that is stuck single-blocking one of these two."
With respect to pass rush, Joyner does not discuss how they will use Fairley, but mentions that Cunningham offered the possibility of switching Suh and Fairley from side to side to ensure each is at full strength, instead of one constantly facing double teams. Suh's ten sacks was a league high among defensive tackles, but the article points out the Lions' real strength is their depth. Without Suh, the team still racked up 34 sacks and drew 5 holding penalties on pass plays. Fairley will likely up that total, and Williams/ Sammie Lee Hill will be rotated in to keep their legs fresh.
Other interesting notes/statistics include the Lions' sixth highest "forced bad decision rate" in the NFL at 3.4%. This is the rate at which the opposing quarterbacks were pressured into making bad decisions that led to turnovers. Joyner also mentions that "Detroit could be a player in the Nnamdi Asomugha market."
Just the fact that the Lions are getting so much attention this offseason shows how analysts believe our team is on its way to becoming a playoff-caliber team. Hopefully Fairley will live up to his reputation like Suh did this past year, which just may boost the Lions into the playoffs.
The article is only available to ESPN Insider subscribers.