Today's question: Defensive line was one of the Detroit Lions' strengths last year with the dominant Ndamukong Suh leading the way. But with the loss to free agency of Suh and Nick Fairley, will Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker help fill the void?
Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Packers: Help? Perhaps. Completely make up for? Not a chance. With apologies to Clay Matthews, Suh was the NFC North’s most dominant defensive player. The Lions controlled games at the line of scrimmage in large part because of Suh. He was equally disruptive against the run and the pass. Because of the attention opposing teams had to pay to Suh, he made players like Fairley, Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah better. And say what you want about Suh and his antics, but he got in people’s heads. This game isn’t just physical; it’s mental, too. Whether you liked the way he played or not, he used that to his advantage.
Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bears: No chance. Maybe Ngata and Walker offset the loss of Fairley, who never lived up to expectations in Detroit, but Suh is irreplaceable. At 28 years old, Suh is in the prime of his career after sacking the quarterback 36 times from 2010-14. Suh was the face of the Lions’ franchise, the player most closely associated to Detroit’s physical and sometimes reckless style on defense. Teams feared Suh. Ngata had a nice run in Baltimore, but he’s 31 and played in a career-low 12 games in 2014. Walker started just one game for the New Orleans Saints in three years. The upside to Walker is that he’s only 25 years old, but where is the production? The lone positive in allowing Suh to sign with the Miami Dolphins is that the Lions don’t have Suh’s hefty contract on their books. But on the field, there is no replacing one of the game's most feared defenders.
Ben Goessling, Minnesota Vikings: Yes, but I don’t think this group is going to be as dynamic as it was with Suh. The Lions are asking Ngata to turn into more of a penetrating tackle than a player who occupies blockers, and after he spent nine years doing the latter in Baltimore, I don’t know how explosive he’ll be. It’s one thing if the Lions get a consistent enough pass rush from Jones and Ansah, but the thing that always made them so scary was the direct, in-your-face pressure that Suh could apply to a quarterback. The group will still be good, but I don’t think it’ll be as fearsome as it was.