A year ago, he was drafted second overall amid glowing reports about his physical prowess and whispers about whether his reckless style that made him a star at the University of Nebraska would translate to the NFL. All he did was lead the Lions, all NFL rookies and all defensive tackles with 10 quarterback sacks and 66 tackles.
Fast-forward a year, and he is universally identified as perhaps the top young defensive lineman in the entire NFL, and on the short list of elite linemen regardless of experience. The 6-foot-4, 307-pounder has a rare combination of overwhelming strength and absurd quickness, which, when matched with his non-stop motor have allowed him to terrorize interior offensive linemen all over the NFL. The current issue of Sporting News magazine even named Suh the No. 8 player — at any position — in the entire league.
So imagine being rookie Dallas guard Bill Nagy. Three games deep into his NFL career, the seventh-round draft choice from Wisconsin (whether he starts or fills in for Derrick Dockery, who missed Monday’s victory over Washignton) is days away from tangling with Suh when the Lions come to Cowboys Stadium for Sunday’s game that kicks off at noon.
“He’s obviously very powerful and so athletic,” Nagy said. “It’s going to be a great challenge to go up against a guy like that.”
Nagy said there’s nothing he and the rest of the Dallas offensive line can do to change their preparation for Sunday’s game, other than to focus as intently as possible throughout the week’s practice.
“I don’t know (whether Dockery will play), but you always prepare like you’re going to start, and that’s what I’m going to do this week,” Nagy said. “As far as facing (Suh) … you have to take every rep in practice and treat it like it’s a game.”
Nagy said the Lions will move their linemen around in different situations, so at times Suh will line up over either Dallas guard or straight up over the center. Once lined up, however, Nagy said the Detroit defense does not rely very heavily on deception and stunts to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
“They’re all good athletes,” he said. “They don’t do a lot of games (stunts) or anything. Their front four is so fast and so talented, they like to line up and go with the individual battles, and let those guys beat the guys in front of them.”
As if the defensive front was not good enough for the Lions — only two teams in the league have given up fewer than the 46 points Detroit has surrendered so far — there now is speculation that rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley will return to the lineup soon, perhaps as early as Sunday against the Cowboys. Fairley, who won the 2010 Lombardi Award as the nation’s top college lineman, has been sidelined since early August with a broken foot.
“I don’t know (if Fairley will play),” Nagy said. “All we can worry about is the guys they put out there, and even without him, they have a really good defense.”
Dallas leads the all-time series between the teams, 13-10, and won the last meeting between the teams, 35-19, last Nov. 21.
Suh’s 10 sacks in 2010 made him just the second rookie defensive tackle in NFL history (along with San Francisco’s Dana Stubblefield) to reach double digits in sacks in his debut season.