The first two names on the list help explain why Detroit is considered the prime landing spot for a coach. The Lions have premier talent in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and receiver Calvin Johnson, among others.
When I talked to 10 Redskins players for this survey, these were the two names mentioned -- with Suh by far the leader. Yes, there have been issues about his extracurricular behavior on the field, but he’s a supreme talent.
I’m sure some said he was feared because he can be a bit, uh, temperamental on the field. There’s no doubt that’s why he tops the list, even though his talent warrants inclusion. When it comes to his game, what impressed me against the Redskins in Week 3 is how hard the guy played from start to finish. He did so despite playing 70 out of a possible 73 snaps in the game.
Here’s what I wrote after that game: “Also, Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh started controlling the middle even more in the second half. Not sure I’ve seen a tackle with the motor Suh has -- the guy played 70 of the 73 snaps Sunday. That’s phenomenal. And he was dominating late. Three times over four plays (covering two series), Suh made a huge impact. First: penetration through the middle (against center Will Montgomery) to force a 13-yard loss on a sack. Next: He shed guard Chris Chester and caught Garcon on a smoke route to the left for 5 yards. Next: He got past Chester to the outside, reached out and slowed [Alfred] Morris, holding him to three yards when more would have been available.”
Johnson, though, scares me even more. The Redskins actually did a solid job on him for much of the game in September and yet he still managed seven catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. When in doubt, Matthew Stafford can throw to him with great trust because more often than not he’ll catch it. You can double-team him or put your best guy on him, and it doesn’t always matter. Johnson pursues the ball in the air as well any other receiver in the NFL. Actually, I don’t know many with his ability to go after the ball.
I think it’s surprising that in a quarterback-driven league, the three most feared players do not play the position. But I also think that could stem from several quarterbacks getting a number of votes.
Redskins angle: This is the result of a 3-13 season – safety Brandon Meriweather received the most votes by a Redskin in this category. He had four votes while quarterback Robert Griffin III received one. Meriweather did not receive that many for his stellar play; rather, he earned that many because of the way he hits. His desire long ago, he said, was to intimidate receivers. I think he’s done that, but now the next time he gets in trouble for a hit it could result in a long suspension. As for Griffin, a year ago he would have been much higher on the list. Given how he played this season I’m surprised he got one vote. But whoever voted for him might still have had nightmares from what he saw, or tried to defend, in 2012.
Also, as much as I like receiver Pierre Garcon and his record-setting 107 catches, I didn't view him as a feared player the same way I would other receivers around the NFL. All those catches produced only five touchdowns. Part of the problem for Garcon being feared this season was the lack of a downfield passing game. Garcon did have a lot of yards after the catch, but that also was a result of many screens and horizontal throws. I also think Garcon's game and impact often is more subtle -- the way he blocks, his ability to break tackles, etc. I think he's a guy you respect and worry about, but fear is reserved for others.
Finally, it's telling, too, that linebacker Brian Orakpo did not receive a vote. I wasn't surprised by that because, again, fear is reserved for major game-changers (or guys with certain reputations for hits). But I wonder how other teams view him as he enters free agency.