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Inevitable, but Haloti Ngata shouldn't be compared to Ndamukong Suh

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Haloti Ngata is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. He has been an All-Pro five times. He's made the Pro Bowl five times.

Yet even he understands one thing -- even though he's filling the contract and role of Ndamukong Suh with the Detroit Lions, he is not Ndamukong Suh.

"Yeah, Ndamukong's a great player," Ngata said. "Well-deserved contract that he got and I don't see myself as Ndamukong Suh. I'm a different player, and you know he's made Pro Bowls, I've made Pro Bowls.

"You know, I play my game and hopefully help the team win."

Yet Suh and Ngata -- at least for the next season -- are going to be linked in Detroit, even if Ngata is more of a run-stopper and space eater whereas Suh is one of the most athletic defensive linemen in the NFL. Suh is also in the middle of his prime whereas Ngata is likely at the exit point of his.

But they are tied together now, mostly because the requisite action for the Lions picking up Ngata was the departure of Suh. In the Lions' only true acknowledgement of their former defensive tackle Wednesday, general manager Martin Mayhew said as much.

"When you lose a guy as talented as Ndamukong Suh, to have the ability to replace him with a guy like Haloti Ngata really alleviates a lot of concern about the defensive tackle position," Mayhew said in an opening statement before taking no questions from the assembled media. "So we're very, very thrilled to have him."

They should be. Lions players were excited to have him as a proven commodity. He was also the best option available for the Lions after Suh's departure and that's part of the reason they had to make this deal. He is a player who still was one of the best interior linemen in the NFL last season at age 30.

But he is a different player than Suh. He's not a game-wrecker like Suh was, commanding of double-teams on every play. He won't have the stamina Suh does, either. Ngata played 504 of 768 defensive snaps last season prior to his suspension -- a clip of 65.6 percent. Meanwhile, Suh played 803 of 984 snaps last year -- an insane 81.6 percent of the Lions' defensive snaps.

Suh's biggest strength was rushing the passer and diverting attention, allowing others to run through and make plays. Ngata sees himself differently.

"I felt like I've always been a great run-stopper," Ngata said. "I picture myself as a sacrifice player where I hold up guys for other players to make plays.

"Definitely I think my strength is having the power and strength to play the run."

The Lions are trying to replace the heart of their top-ranked run defense from a season ago -- Suh, Nick Fairley and, for now, C.J. Mosley -- so Ngata became a more critical get because of his ability against the run.

But he's also right. Even if it is inevitable that Ngata will be compared to Suh, they are very, very different players at very, very different times in their careers.

"Me, personally, Ndamukong Suh was a great player but we're totally different players, type of players," Ngata said. "So I'm just, I'm here to be me and not be Ndamukong Suh."

The Lions are hoping the results are similar, though. High-impact players who can change a game from the interior of the defensive line.