Last year, one of the more disappointing things about the 2011 season was that first-round draft pick Nick Fairley was never healthy. After going down with a broken foot early in training camp, Fairley spent the rest of the year recovering from the injury. He appeared in only 10 games (11 if you count the playoffs), and although he did show how dominant he can be in the regular-season game against the New Orleans Saints, his injury actually flared up again during that game.
In 2012, the Lions expect Fairley to be the dominant player we saw against the Saints all season long. Not only will they have a healthy Fairley, but also a stronger Fairley. He put on 18 pounds of muscle last season since he was confined to the weight room so much, and Jim Schwartz likes what he's seen out of Fairley.
"Nick is a very talented player, and Nick flashed everything that he needs to be an impact player in the National Football League, and he was, in spots, last year," Schwartz said. "He just wasn't consistent, and he wasn't healthy enough to be on the field enough for us."
If the Lions do in fact get the kind of player we saw in New Orleans, their defensive line will truly be a force to be reckoned with. Let's not forget that for that game against the Saints, Ndamukong Suh was suspended, which allowed Fairley to sort of become the main guy at defensive tackle. With Suh and a healthy Fairley both in the rotation, the Lions' talent at defensive tackle should be near the top of the league.