Nick Fairley says he and Ndamukong Suh are the best defensive tackle tandem in league

Posted May 16, 2013

Fairley says this will be a big year for him, making it his top priority to stay healthy and on the field for the entire season

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz challenged third-year defensive tackle Nick Fairley this offseason.
Nick FairleyDT Nick Fairley

"We’re a better defense when Nick’s on the field for us," Schwartz said at the NFL League Meetings in Phoenix in March. "He made big plays last year, but finished the year on injured reserve. We need to get him to the point where he can play 16 (games) for us the way he plays eight for us every year."

For his part, Fairley says he’s accepted that challenge.

"Even though this is my third year, my first year I was hurt, I was in-and-out," Fairley said. "My second year I didn’t progress until later on. It’s going to be big for me to come in and put in all 16 ... 17, 18 games. It’s going to be big for me to go throughout the whole year."

Fairley had his best stretch over five games last season when he had four sacks, two forced fumbles and 23 tackles. That run began Week 10 at Minnesota and ended Week 14 at Green Bay when he suffered the shoulder injury that resulted in him being placed on injured-reserve.

When healthy, he and fellow defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh form one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the NFL. Fairley was quick to proclaim that the pair is already the best tandem.

"Of course," Fairley said. "We’re going to give guys trouble, man. It’s like pick your poison this year with our defensive line. You cannot come in and double-team Ndamukong and you can’t come in and double-team me.

"You won’t be able to double-team Ziggy (Ansah) or Jason Jones or Willie (Young). You have to pick who you’re going to bring your back to chip. We’re going to feed off each other, and when we get that chemistry down, it’s going to look real good for us."

With two new starters on either side of Fairley and Suh this year, a dominant (and healthy) defensive tackle tandem will go a long way toward helping the transition for projected starting defensive ends Jones and Ansah.

Fairley says he’s been diligent all offseason working with strength staff and trainers to keep his weight where it needs to be and his strength up.

"I’m where I want to be coming into OTAs and minicamp and everything, which right now is at 315," Fairley said. "We still have two months before training camp, but I think I’m at where I want to be."

His shoulder is 100 percent ready to go, according to Fairley, and so is he.

"He's an impact player," Schwartz said. "I think that you saw all the reasons that we drafted him. The tackles for losses, affecting the passing game, sacks, chase plays. He's really a fast guy, he can chase down screens, he can do all those things. So it's been more (about) availability for him."