COORDINATOR CUT-UP

Coordinator Cut-Up: Cunningham hopes Sunday's performance is a springboard for DT Nick Fairley

Posted Nov 13, 2012

According to defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, the second-year defensive tackle out of Auburn - who started his third game for the injured Corey Williams (knee) on Sunday at Minnesota - had the best game of his NFL career.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley has shown flashes of terrific play a few different times during his brief career. It hasn’t been there consistently enough, though.

But according to defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, the second-year defensive tackle out of Auburn - who started his third game for the injured Corey Williams (knee) on Sunday at Minnesota - had the best game of his NFL career.

“I think by far he had his best game," Cunningham told detroitlions.com "I told him (Monday) morning there's no stepping back now."

That's been a little bit of the knock on Fairley so far. He'd play great one game and kind of disappear the next.

“I think Sammie Hill, I think Ndamukong (Suh) and I think Nick really played well in the game," Cunningham said. "The two young guys need to keep rising because right now they're reaching a level that I like and that's going to be very good for us.”

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said the same thing about Fairley in his Monday press conference.

“Nick had one of the best games he’s played since he’s been here,” he said. “I thought he played very well in the run game. Used his hands very well, made tackles for losses. Sacked the quarterback, was around the passer, and was very, very active.”

Fairley had three tackles for loss and a sack Sunday. Fairley's three starts have been three of his better games this season. He also started at Philadelphia and at Chicago for the injured Williams.

Despite Fairley's success in those games, Williams is still the starter when he returns from injury.

“I don't think that a player should necessarily lose his starting spot because he missed a game due to injury, but I think in talking about Nick - Nick's going to be a future starter in this league and he's finally reaching the potential we thought he had coming in," said Cunningham.

“The only reason I don't think he has (already) is he went through the tough year last year with the foot and then this year I think a lot of things affected him early on.”

Cunningham is hopeful all that's in the past after Sunday's performance.

“He's coming out of it,” he said. “He's growing up. He's maturing as a pro. This last game, he looked every bit of what I wanted to see from him.”