Ndamukong Suh wants fans to answer the call on Monday night


Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— Suuuuuhhhhh!

Get your vocal cords ready. Ndamukong Suh wants to hear you Monday night.

“One thing I really feed off is hearing my name out there,” Suh said Thursday. “Players may say they tune all that out, but when I make a play and hear my name, those things really feel good.”

Suh was in the midst of the din at Comerica Park for Game 3 of the American League Division Series this week, and he’s counting on a similar roof-raising decibel level at Ford Field on Monday against the Bears.

“Being at that Tigers game, that was a great example of feeling that atmosphere,” he said. “I was six rows up and being able to feel the crowd, that noise, I am definitely looking forward to the same type of thing. I really expect nothing less from the Monday night game. I am excited for it.”

Aware of game’s magnitude

Crowd noise, though, is generally proportionate to the quality of play on the field. As quarterback Matthew Stafford said, “We know this game is big for the city, but we also know we have to play well for it to be any kind of fun.”

Suh understands that, which makes him all the more anxious to get at it.

“Probably the most exciting thing about our team is that we have yet to play a perfect game,” he said. “We’ve played very mediocre. With that, there’s a lot of room to improve.”

Suh, an all-Pro and defensive rookie of the year last season, is off to what can be best described as a quietly effective start. He has 11 tackles and two sacks — far from the torrid pace he set last year when he had 10 sacks.

But, in the grand scheme of the defense, he and the rest of the line has keep steady pressure on quarterbacks and been at times overtly disruptive, other times subtly disruptive.

“Any competitive defensive lineman wants a lot of sacks and it’s unfortunate that we are down on our numbers, but we understand we’ve done some good things,” Suh said. “One way to measure us to see the things we’ve done in the backfield, causing pressure and making quarterbacks loft balls up that lead to interceptions. But by all means, we want to get back to sacking the quarterback.”

Revenge factor?

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been sacked 15 times, second behind Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (18).

Last year in the game at Ford Field, Suh was fined for hitting Cutler with excessive force outside the pocket. He was asked if such a hit might have some carry-over impact on Cutler’s psyche.

“I have no idea; you’d have to ask Jay Cutler about that,” Suh said. “That’s not my concern and it was not the reason for the hit. The reason to hit him hard is to create a play, get him to fumble.”

Suh said the thing he liked most about the defense has been its resiliency and adaptability. He has shown the same traits individually.

Teams are emptying the trick box to find some way to neutralize him, occasionally with some success.

They try to use his penetration against him, either with trap blocks inside, or chipping him with an offensive tackle.

“A lot of teams do that,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “They keep a tight end in and bring a tackle down. But every time they keep a tight end in, it’s one less guy in the route.”

Learning to adjust

As for the trap blocks, that’s a systemic issue.

“We’re vulnerable to trap blocks,” Schwartz said. “You tell guys to get up field and rush the passer, they’re going to be susceptible to the trap. But our linebackers are expected to play that. We don’t want our guys slowing down and playing traps. Suh is an instinctive guy. He’s seen those things before. If we are getting off the line the way we are supposed to, our linebackers should fill those (gaps) up.”

Schwartz would caution against measuring Suh merely with statistics.

“The most impressive thing about him wouldn’t be impressive to other people,” Schwartz said. “But it’s that he’s always in on the play, and it’s because he has great instincts, great balance and he’s so strong.”

He’s so strong, in fact, that even when he’s blocked well, Suh manages to, at the very least, hold his gap most times.

“The great way our defense is set up, when I get penetration, I am doing my job,” Suh said. “Even if they knock me off course — whether they are trapping me from the inside-out, or doing a wham block from the outside-in — a lot of times I withstand those blows and stay in my gap and get my job done.”

Attuned to rivalry

For a guy who grew up in Portland, Ore., and played at Nebraska, Suh seems to have a grasp of the magnitude of a Bears-Lions game, especially one played on the big stage of Monday.

“These were the two top teams in the north back in the day,” he said. “I kind of consider this like going back to the Big 12 — which doesn’t exist any more — and the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry. I look at it the same way. The Bears are definitely a team we want to get after. They are in our division and they beat us twice last year, and they have a great team.

“For me during big game weeks, I am a little more quiet. I want to make sure I am calm. When it’s the right time and I am on the football field, then I unleash it. This is going to be a great challenge and I am ready.”

Bears at Lions

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. Monday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: ESPN/WXYT

Line: Lions by 51/2

Records: Bears 2-2,Lions 4-0

Series: Bears lead 91-64-5 (Chicago 24-20, Dec. 5, 2010)

Did you know?: The last “Monday Night Football” appearance for the Lions was Oct. 8, 2001, against the Rams, who won 35-0.

chris.mccosky@detnews.com

twitter.com/cmccosky

Lions might gamble on strong defensive end class


Chris McCosky / The Detroit News

Fifth in a series of previews for the NFL draft.

Allen Park— Why in the world would the Lions draft a defensive end with the 13th overall in next week’s draft?

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The defensive line, as a unit, was without question the strength of the defense last season and everybody is coming back. The ends are especially well-stocked with starters Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril, productive reserves Turk McBride and Lawrence Jackson, plus developing second-year end Willie Young.

No way the Lions use their first on a defensive lineman, right? Wrong.

“Sometimes when you add a player, it might not make sense on the face of it,” general manager Martin Mayhew said before the Combine in February. “But if you see what’s on the horizon and you look down the road and around the corner, it does make sense.”

All four primary defensive ends were injured at various times last season, and Vanden Bosch will be 33 and coming off neck surgery, so you can’t have enough talent there, especially when it is the foundation of your defensive scheme.

“That has to be the strength of our team in the future and it’s a big part of our defensive philosophy,” Mayhew said. “There are a lot of intriguing guys here (in the draft), a lot of good defensive ends and a lot of versatile guys who can play outside and rush from the inside. That is definitely an area we will look to address.”

The accumulation of talented defensive ends and, more specifically, pass rushers, is becoming a league-wide trend. Former coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden explains why.

“There is a premium on pass rush,” he said in a teleconference last week. “You don’t want to have to blitz five, six, seven guys to get there. You want to be able to get there with four, if you can for sure, and use seven men in coverage.”

That’s especially critical for the Lions, since they have had some well-documented deficiencies in the secondary over the years.

“Defensive ends are a premium in this draft,” Gruden said. “I think this is an outstanding class of defensive end. (Da’Quan) Bowers, providing his knee is healthy, and Robert Quinn at North Carolina, Aldon Smith is special at Missouri. I think J.J. Watt is a physical guy coming off the edge, like Ryan Kerrigan at Purdue. Adrian Clayborn has some excellent tape. There are a number of good pass rushers in this draft.”

The Lions have taken close looks at Smith, Bowers and Cal’s Cameron Jordan. Mayhew talked about Bowers, who led the nation in sacks, on Thursday.

“There is some concern about Bowers’ medical condition,” Mayhew said. “Our doctors have evaluated him and we don’t share that concern.”

Bowers had knee surgery in January and there have been conflicting reports about how ready he will be next season — and beyond.

“He’s not in pristine physical condition, according to our doctors,” Mayhew said. “But we are not concerned about his health in terms of playing football in the future.”

Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz have talked about having ends that are versatile enough to rush effectively from the inside and outside. Watt, Bowers and Smith certainly fit that bill, but there is a good chance none will be around by the time the Lions are set to pick.

Smith would be an intriguing choice. He’s only 21 and still raw. He likely wouldn’t make a huge impact next season, but Mayhew made it clear Thursday the draft is for the future.

Smith is listed at 263 pounds, but projects to play at 275 when he grows into his frame. Right now he can squat 700 pounds, so he’s explosive inside and outside.

The talent pool is deep enough that they could get a solid defensive end even in the second or third rounds.

“If you select well, the whole draft is pretty sound,” Mayhew said. “Defensive line is really deep and that’s good. We really have improved our football team by improving our defensive line, but we can still add to that group.”

By most accounts, the cream of the defensive tackle crop — Alabama’s Marcell Dareus, Auburn’s Nick Fairley and possibly Corey Liuget of Illinois — will be gone before the Lions pick.

Long time coming

Before drafting Ndamukong Suh last year, the Lions last took a defensive lineman with their first pick in the 1995 draft. The list:

2010: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (No. 2)

2009: QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia (No. 1)

2008: OT Gosder Cherilus, Boston College (No. 17)

2007: WR Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech (No. 2)

2006: LB Ernie Sims, Florida State (No. 9)

2005: WR Mike Williams, Southern California (No. 10)

2004: WR Roy Williams, Texas (No. 7)

2003: WR Charles Rogers, Michigan State (No. 2)

2002: QB Joey Harrington, Oregon (No. 3)

2001: OT Jeff Backus, Michigan (No. 18)

2000: OT Stockar McDougle, Oklahoma (No. 20)

1999: LB Chris Claiborne, Southern California (No. 9)

1998: CB Terry Fair, Tennessee (No. 20)

1997: CB Bryant Westbrook, Texas (No. 5)

1996: LB Reggie Brown, Texas AM (No. 17)

1995: DT Luther Elliss, Utah (No. 20)

Top defensive ends J.J. Watt

6-6/292, Wisconsin

There doesn’t appear to be a weakness. He has an elite first step, quick, violent hands, great athleticism, can rush inside and on the edge and has uncanny timing on batting down passes.

Da’Quan Bowers

6-4/280, Clemson

The NCAA leader in sacks and tackles for loss has all the tools, power, strength, leverage. The only question is his surgically-repaired right knee. Teams are split on how long he will last.

Robert Quinn

6-4/265, North Carolina

He is smaller than the other elite players, but he’s faster (4.65 40) and more athletic. Some scouts think he’s too one-dimensional and raw. Others think he is a budding game-changer. Didn’t play last season.

Aldon Smith

6-4/263, Missouri

Scouts love his length, strength and power, but mostly they like his versatility. He is a beast of an inside rusher and explosive off the edge. He has excellent lateral movement, as well.

Cameron Jordon

6-4/283, California

Athletic and disruptive. Has a non-stop motor on the field. His happy-go-lucky demeanor masks a fierce competitiveness. He can play from a stance in a 4-3 or standing up in a 3-4.

Top defensive tackles Nick Fairley

6-3/291, Auburn

This is a mean, dynamic pass rusher with all the tools to be a Pro Bowler. But his bust potential is just as high. Concerns about his motivation and character persist.

Marcell Dareus

6-3/319, Alabama

Probably as complete and safe a top-three pick as there is in the draft. Will draw double-teams whether he plays in an odd or even front. Great power and strength, plus he is technically sound.

Corey Liuget

6-2/298, Illinois

There is concern about his weight, but his ability to penetrate at the point of attack is a perfect fit for a 4-3 system. Some worry he’s a one-year wonder.

Muhammad Wilkerson

6-4/315, Temple

Impressive at stacking and shedding blockers and finding the ball, but he’s raw. He will need a lot of help with technique. Hasn’t had to learn how to use his hands, which he’ll have to do.

Marvin Austin

6-1/309, North Carolina

Not NFL-ready, but he’s thick, ran a 4.83 with a Combine-best 1.64 10-yard split. But he is still a bit immature. High risk-reward quotient here. Like Quinn, he didn’t play last season.

NFL draft

When: April 28-30, Radio City Music Hall, New York

TV: April 28 and 30 on ESPN (8 p.m. and noon), April 29 on ESPN2 (6 p.m.); all rounds on NFL

Format

Round 1: 8 p.m. April 28

Rounds 2-3: 6 p.m. April 29

Rounds 4-7: noon April 30

Detroit News position previews for the NFL draft

chris.mccosky@detnews.com

(313) 222-1489

Tim Twentyman: Top cornerbacks will be gone before Lions pick, Kiper says


Tim Twentyman: NFL Insider

Mel Kiper Jr., who has been ESPN’s point man on the NFL draft since 1984, has some bad news for Lions fans hoping to snag a cornerback in the first round.

Kiper said the Lions’ top four needs are cornerback, outside linebacker, offensive tackle and defensive end. But he thinks there’s little chance the Lions get a corner deserving of the No. 13 pick.

LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara are considered the top two corners in the draft. After Peterson and Amukamara, Kiper said the rest of the corners are more deserving of late-first round to second-round consideration.

Peterson is considered a top-five pick and Kiper doesn’t think there’s any way the Lions have a chance at Amukamara unless they move up.

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“I just can’t see (Amukamara) getting past Dallas (at No. 9),” he said. “Surprises happen every draft, and you never say never, but right now, I have a tough time getting him down to Dallas. I thought he’d fit in good with a couple teams earlier; San Francisco (No. 7) could look corner. I do think at No. 13 that would be a stretch to try and get him.”

Kiper still thinks the Lions will take UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, which would certainly fill a need.

But Kiper also alluded to a possible wild-card selection.

“I have (offensive tackle) Nate Soder out of Colorado going one pick ahead of the Lions at No. 12,” Kiper said. “He’s had a nice week down at Mobile so far (Senior Bowl), which you knew he would.

“I think he has the most upside out of any lineman in the draft, be it offensive lineman or defensive lineman. He’s a former tight end. He’s a chiseled kid. He’s going to keep getting better and better because of limited experience on the offensive line.

“The history of tight end-turned-offensive tackles in the NFL over the last 35 years is pretty good. I think he would be an interesting guy. He’s the only one right now of the offensive tackles that I think has a chance to really jump up. I think Soder is going to be the hot guy because of the upside and the fact that he’s that diamond in the rough; he’s going to keep getting better and better.”

If the Lions pass on Ayers for Soder, or Amukamara drops, Kiper said there are good 4-3 outside linebackers available in the second, third and fourth rounds that will fit the Lions’ needs.

He named Bruce Carter (North Carolina), Lawrence Wilson (Connecticut), Mason Foster (Washington) and Ross Homan (Ohio State) as possibilities for the Lions later in the draft.

By the numbers

$83,000 — Payout for each player on the winning team in Super Bowl XVL

$42,000 — Payout for each player on the losing team

$15,000 — Payout for each player on the winning team in Super Bowl I (1967)

$7,500 — Payout for each player on the losing team

Air attack

Still don’t think the NFL is a passing league? A record 22 quarterbacks passed for 3,000 yards or more this season. The previous high was 19 in 2001 and 2009.

Philip Rivers, Chargers — 4,710

Peyton Manning, Colts — 4,700

Drew Brees, Saints — 4,620

Matt Schaub, Texans — 4,370

Eli Manning, Giants — 4,002

Carson Palmer, Bengals — 3,970

Aaron Rodgers, Packers — 3,922

Tom Brady, Patriots — 3,900

Matt Ryan, Falcons — 3,705

Kyle Orton, Broncos — 3,653

Joe Flacco, Ravens — 3,622

Sam Bradford, Rams — 3,512

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers — 3,451

Donovan McNabb, Redskins — 3,377

Chad Henne, Dolphins — 3,301

Mark Sanchez, Jets — 3,291

Jay Cutler, Bears — 3,274

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers — 3,200

Matt Cassel, Chiefs — 3,116

Michael Vick, Eagles — 3,018

Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks — 3,001

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills — 3,000

He said it

“The entire senior leadership team stands with me in its commitment to resolving the CBA issues with the players union. While several other executives have also volunteered to make additional reductions to their compensation, I have asked them not to take that step at this time as we continue our negotiating efforts.”

— NFL commisioner Roger Goodell, who said he’ll cut his salary to $1 if there is a work stoppage after the collective bargaining agreement expires in March. Goodell makes $10 million per year.

ttwentyman@detnews.com

Redskins suspend Albert Haynesworth for remainder of season


Associated Press

Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth was suspended without pay by the Washington Redskins on Tuesday for the last four games of the regular season, capping a saga that began last offseason.

The move, which the Redskins announced was made because of “conduct detrimental to the club,” comes after a long, difficult back-and-forth between Haynesworth, a two-time All-Pro with a $100 million contract, and first-year Washington head coach Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.

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Haynesworth skipped offseason workouts, boycotted a mandatory minicamp, needed 10 days to pass a conditioning test at training camp, did all he could to resist a change in the defensive scheme and then eventually became a part-time player.

His main gripe has been that he shouldn’t be playing nose tackle in a 3-4 defense.

The Redskins said general manager Bruce Allen told Haynesworth about the suspension Tuesday. Haynesworth was inactive for Washington’s 31-7 loss at the New York Giants on Sunday, which dropped the Redskins to 5-7.

In the team’s statement Tuesday, Shanahan is quoted as saying that Haynesworth “repeatedly refused to cooperate with our coaching staff in a variety of ways over an extended period of time.”

Shanahan also said Haynesworth “consistently indicated” to defensive coaches that he wouldn’t play in certain defensive packages and refused to follow coaches’ instructions in practice and during games.