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

Prince Amukamara doesn’t fare well in ESPN stats analysis


Tim Twentyman / The Detroit News

ESPN analyst JC Joyner thinks Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, a candidate to be selected by the Lions with the 13th pick, is rated far too high in this year’s NFL draft.

And he’s got data to prove it.

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Joyner broke down the statistics of Amukamara and some of the draft’s other corners and found that he lagged behind.

“In fact, his performance level placed him well behind some other cornerbacks that are considered borderline first-round choices,” Joyner wrote.

In the 10 games in which the Cornhuskers faced FBS competition (Kansas State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Iowa State, Texas AM, Colorado, Oklahoma and two games against Washington), Amukamara was targeted 37 times and gave up 17 completions for 297 yards (8.7 yards per catch average) with three touchdowns. On plays over 30 yards, Joyner notes that teams completed three of their four attempts against Amukamara for 161 yards.

Amukamara gave up 11 completions/defensive penalties in 20 vertical pass attempts, according to Joyner, which equates to a 45-percent success rate. That would have ranked 82nd in that category at the pro level last season. The 14.1 vertical yards per attempt (YPA) and 16.6 stretch vertical YPA would also have placed him in the bottom quarter of the league in those categories.

Joyner admits that Amukamara’s numbers were skewed by his performance against Oklahoma State star wideout Justin Blackmon (Blackmon went 3-for-6 for 144 total reception/penalty yards and a touchdown), but writes that even if you subtract that game, he still gave up a nearly 50-percent completion rate on all other passes.

Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith is considered another draft candidate for the Lions. In an eight-game sample (Colorado State, California, Hawaii, Georgia, Missouri, Baylor, Oklahoma and Nebraska), Smith was targeted 21 times and gave up eight completions for 73 yards, or a 3.5 YPA. He also had a 3.6 YPA on passes of more than 11 yards and a 2.3 YPA on seven passes of 20 yards or more.

“The Georgia game included two targets in which Smith was covering consensus No. 1 wide receiver A.J. Green, both of which fell incomplete,” Joyner notes.

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It’s not too early for Lions fans to think draft

Lions: Analysis

Tim Twentyman / The Detroit News

Allen Park– The Lions lost their ninth game in 11 tries over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. With hopes for a playoff spot dashed for an 11th-consecutive season, it’s not too early to start looking at how this team might improve itself in 2011.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew put together a couple of nice drafts the last two seasons, particularly with top picks Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh, and will need to get more help this spring.

Positions in need of upgrades: the secondary, linebacking corps, and offensive line.

So who might the Lions target with another likely top five pick?

After watching Tom Brady slice up the Lions in a 45-24 Thanksgiving Day loss, the early favorite is Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson is a true lockdown corner, something the Lions haven’t had in years.

Peterson (6-1, 222) has drawn comparisons to former Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson. Only a junior, he is a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top cornerback. He’s also a productive returner, averaging 27.5 yards per kick return and 19.7 per punt.

Peterson has elite size for the position and runs in the 4.3 to 4.4 range in the 40-yard dash.

Other possibilities

Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara could also be an option. Amukamara (6-1, 205) doesn’t have an interception in 2010, but that’s mainly because opposing quarterbacks rarely throw his way.

Amukamara was a late bloomer, making three starts his first two seasons at Nebraska, but has developed into one of the nation’s top defenders. He’s also a finalist for the Thorpe Award.

The year’s cornerback class is deep by draft analysts, and includes other top-flight corners in Brandon Harris (Miami), Janoris Jenkins (Florida), Ras-I Dowling (Virginia) and Aaron Williams (Texas).

On draft day, don’t be surprised, if the Lions bypass all the cornerbacks and decide early to get help at linebacker, especially on the outside.

Veteran outside linebacker Julian Peterson and his $8 million salary are likely gone after the season.

Zack Follett, who started the season at outside linebacker, was lost for the season due to a neck injury and has an uncertain future.

The unit needs a young playmaker alongside middle linebacker DeAndre Levy.

The two best linebacker prospects, according to Kiper, are Akeem Ayers (UCLA) and Von Miller (Texas AM).

Both Ayers (6-4, 255) and Miller (6-3, 243) have terrific size and speed, but are viewed more as 3-4 rush linebackers at the next level. The Lions run a 4-3 base defense.

Later round talents

Other options at linebacker, later in the first round or possibly early in the second round, are Travis Lewis (6-2, 232) of Oklahoma and North Carolina’s Bruce Carter (6-3, 225).

Lewis and Carter are a bit small for Lions coach Jim Schwartz’s scheme, though.