Lions coach: Suh improved in 2011

Despite all the bad headlines and what would appear to be a big drop in productivity, Lions head...

Despite all the bad headlines and what would appear to be a big drop in productivity, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh actually got better in 2011. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters/Files)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:16 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS - After a spectacular rookie season with the Detroit Lions in 2010, Ndamukong Suh made headlines last season for all the wrong reasons.

The defensive tackle earned the rep as a hothead who could be lured into taking dumb penalties after the whistle.

It culminated on U.S. Thanksgiving Day against the Green Bay Packers, when Suh shoved the head of Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith into the ground three times, then foot-stomped his arm. The NFL suspended him for two games without pay.

On Thursday morning, Lions coach Jim Schwartz kicked off team-media access at the Scouting Combine and addressed Suh's play in 2011, when he amassed only four sacks.

Despite all the bad headlines and what would appear to be a big drop in productivity, Schwartz said Suh actually got better in 2011.

"Ndamukong was a very, very productive player for us," Schwartz said. "It's very difficult for a defensive tackle to get double-digit sacks, and he was able to do that as a rookie. And when you do that, everybody assumes that the next year it's going to be 15, and the next year it's going to be 20.

"We just finished our off-season cutups. You sit back and look at every different play from a variety of angles ... and Ndamukong played very well this year. I think some of the things that happened with him, particularly the Thanksgiving Day game, sort of overshadowed that. But he was an improved player."

Schwartz gave examples of impact plays the coaches saw Suh make, but which didn't show up in any statbook.

"He played very well, particularly through that part of the season when he wasn't getting sacks. We saw a couple of plays when he had a great pass rush, or when he's coming free to the quarterback and the quarterback throws an interception. There's no stat at all there for a defensive lineman — no sack that anybody in the media or fans can look at — but obviously that's an impact play.

"Particularly over the last couple of games, we put some of those other things to rest — the after-the-whistle type things. But when you're a player that other teams want to target, from a scheme standpoint, you have to adjust to that. I think that's one thing that he, and we, can all work on."


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