Position Preview: Defensive Tackles

Posted Jul 23, 2013

Tim Twentyman says the defensive tackle position has the potential to be one of the team's strengths in 2013

Nick Fairley made a pretty bold prediction this offseason when he told that he and Ndamukong Suh could be the best defensive tackle tandem in the NFL. It’s a challenge Suh has also embraced.

With training camp set to begin in just days, the defensive tackle position looks to be one of the strength on this team.

We continue our preview of Detroit Lions training camp with a look at the defensive tackle position.


Nick Fairley 6-4 310 25 3 Auburn
Ogemdi Nwagbuo 6-5 312 27 4 Michigan State
C.J. Mosley 6-2 310 29 9 Missouri
Jimmy Saddler-McQueen 6-2 299 25 2 Texas A&M-Kingsville
Ndamukong Suh 6-4 307 26 4 Nebraska


Nick Fairley 13 34 5.5 2 1 1
Ogemdi Nwagbuo 1 0 0 0 0 0
C.J. Mosley (w/Jax) 16 45 2.5 1 3 0
Jimmy Saddler-McQueen 1 0 0 0 0 0
Ndamukong Suh 16 35 8.0 0 0 2


33.0: Knockdowns and quarterback hurries recorded by Suh in 2012. That total was the 10th highest total in the NFL. Texans DE J.J. Watt led the NFL with a total of 48.5.
66: Rushes that gained negative yards against the Detroit Lions defense last season. That was the second-highest total in the NFL with the league average being 42.
13.5: Combined sacks for Suh and Fairley last season. That total was the second most for a defensive tackle tandem in the league. Only Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins and Domata Peko had more (14.5), but Atkins accounted for 12.5 of those.


The good: When Fairley is on his game, he just might be right about he and Suh being the best defensive duo in the league in the middle. During a five-game stretch last season from Nov. 11 at Minnesota and ending when he suffered the shoulder injury at Green Bay, Fairley had four sacks, two forced fumbles and 23 tackles.
The bad: Fairley has missed nine games his first two seasons because of foot and shoulder injuries and has been less than 100 percent in countless others. To steal a line from Jim Schwartz – it’s not a question of talent with Fairley; it’s a question of availability.
The fix: Suh is always prepared, in shape and ready to roll come training camp and the regular season. He’s a consistent 16-game performer year-in and year-out. If Fairley can become the same kind of professional player, he actually has the potential to be more disruptive than Suh. He’s that talented.


"He’s never lacked confidence. He hasn’t been healthy enough to be on the field for a long enough time for us and that’s his biggest challenge. He’s got work to do between now and the start of training camp. It’s not just talent, it’s not just confidence, it’s availability. For his first two years he wasn’t available enough for us and this will be a big year for him to be on the field consistently for us. We’ve seen some other guys be in that situation, you know, (Matthew) Stafford included. Stafford wasn’t on the field enough as a first- and second-year player. He seems to have put some of that stuff behind him and we need Nick to do the same thing."

-- Lions head coach Jim Schwartz on third-year defensive tackle Nick Fairley


Suh and Fairley will make up the first-team tackle tandem, and it’s a pretty good duo to throw out there. Both players are very good against the pass and have tremendous pass-rushing skills.

Nick Fairley, Ndamukong SuhDefensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh

If the Lions can get more production out of the defensive end position in 2013, quarterbacks really won’t have anywhere to go with Suh and Fairley pushing the pocket back.

The Lions like to rotate bodies in along their defensive line and the defensive tackle position is no different. That’s why signing a player like C.J. Mosley was one of the better under-the-radar signings for this team this offseason.

Mosley started 13 games last year with 45 tackles. He’s accepted his role as a rotational player and is looking forward to getting after it alongside some of the other talent the Lions have assembled upfront on defense.

It gets a little tricky when we start talking about the fourth defensive tackle spot. Nwagbuo and Saddler-McQueen will have a chance to step up and make a case for the job in training camp, but the Lions could also be thinking that either defensive ends Israel Idonije or Jason Jones could fill the roll, too.

Idonije is a versatile player who can play both defensive end and defensive tackle. The Lions could be envisioning a scenario where Idonije plays a 50/50 role. Jones can also move inside and play defensive tackle in certain situations.

Corey Williams is still on the free-agent market, but his knee would have to be cleared medically and the price would have to be right for the Lions to go down that road.