LIONS INSIDER

TIM AND MIKE: Talking defensive tackle Nick Fairley

Posted Jun 5, 2014

Senior writer Tim Twentyman and columnist Mike O'Hara discuss DT Nick Fairley and take a look at the league's top receiving duos.

A major development in the Lions’ offseason is how defensive tackle Nick Fairley is putting his performance where his mouth is.

In other words, Fairley is eating less and eating healthier, and the result has been a dramatic weight loss. Fairley also has undergone a procedure to help correct his problem with sleep apnea. Fairley was in good spirits talking about personal expectations for the 2014 season.

Also, one analyst named O’Hara – former Giants offensive lineman Shaun O’Hara – has rated Calvin Johnson the NFL’s No. 1 receiver, and Johnson and Golden Tate the league’s No. 3 receiving duo.

And in a visit to practice, NASCAR driver Joey Logano raised some eyebrows – Reggie Bush’s in particular – when he said he’d rather crash a stock car at 200 miles an hour than get hit by a 300-pound football player.

Starting with Fairley, it’s a lot to chew on – no pun intended.

DefenseFairley, Van Noy and Ansah (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Mike: He looks good and sounds good, and neither one is a real surprise. Fairley is a light-hearted young man, and it’s hard not to like him. And it’s also the first week in June, which means the start of the regular season is three months away.

Fairley has to carry his attitude and training program into the start of the season and throughout it. This is a good start, but it’s just that, a start.

He has had some big plays in his first three seasons with the Lions, but he has not lived up to his potential. Fairley is quick and strong and better athletically than Ndamukong Suh, who plays next to him on the defensive line. But Suh plays better because he’s more committed to being in shape.

Fairley has incentive to have a big season. He is on the last year of his four-year rookie contract, and the Lions declined to pick up his fifth-year option, which will let him become a free agent in 2015 – unless the Lions sign him back.

And therein lies the intrigue – with the Lions in negotiations with Suh, and Fairley coming up for a new contract. Aren’t there some obvious questions there?

Tim: The question that jumps out to me is can the Lions keep both Suh and Fairley? I don’t think they can if Suh signs a $12-$15 million per season contract and Fairley has a big year in 2014.

Let me pose this question to you, Mike.

Let’s say the Lions and Suh don’t have a deal in place by the start of the season and Fairley begins the season on an absolute tear. I’m talking 2010 junior season at Auburn kind of tear. Do the Lions reevaluate which defensive tackle they want to spend their money on?

Mike: It’s certainly something to think about for everyone involved – Suh, Fairley, the agents for both players, and Lions management.

Suh has never shown an inclination to compromise when he has his mind made up. If the Lions get into the season without a new deal for Suh and Fairley is having a big year, it could come down to a choice – Fairley, who’s a year younger and could be re-signed for less, or Suh, a proven Pro Bowl player.

But I wouldn’t be so sure that there isn’t enough dough to sign both, with the expectation of a bigger salary cap.

That isn’t likely, but it’s not impossible, either.

Tim: Look, it’s not a bad problem to have if you’re the Lions.

The team didn’t pick up Fairley’s fifth-year option as a way to motivate him. If it works and he’s a consistent performer this season the Lions would certainly welcome the dilemma of deciding to sign him long term.

Speaking of long-term contracts and terrific play, I thought NFL Network analyst Shaun O’Hara hit it on the head on when he listed Calvin Johnson as the league’s best receiver and Megatron and Tate as the third-best duo in the league.

My No. 1 duo is the same as O’Hara’s – Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

I’ll agree that Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Roddy White deserve to be a slight tick ahead of Johnson and Tate at this point because both players are proven 1,000-yard performers in their careers.

Johnson is going to free things up for Tate, and vice versa, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Johnson and Tate become the first Lions duo since Mike Furrey (1,086 yards) and Roy Williams (1,310) in 2006 to each record 1,000 receiving yards.

Mike: The volume of yards isn’t what will define the value of anyone in the Lions’ passing game this year. It will be efficiency and impact – big catches opposed to big drops, and clutch catches instead of missed opportunities.

They won’t be part of any rating system, but you can throw four more players into the equation of Lions players who have to produce in their roles – rookie pass-catcher Eric Ebron expanding the seams; tight end Brandon Pettigrew as a blocker and outlet receiver; Reggie Bush and Joique Bell making plays in and out of the backfield.

And I haven’t forgotten the quarterback, Matthew Stafford. I expect him to have a beast season.

Now, about those crashes. Which would you take – the wall at MIS at 200 miles per hour, or a blitzing linebacker at full speed?

Tim: I’ve never seen a quarterback killed by a blitzing linebacker.

I’ve got a lot of respect for race car drivers. I want no part of hitting a wall at 200 miles per hour.

I once got my car going nearly 100 miles per hour on the MIS race track after covering a race there for The Detroit News a number of years back. Reporters have to drive halfway around the track, or at least they did back then, to exit the complex. That made me nervous, couldn’t imagine hitting 200.

Switching gears a bit, I see the NFL is ditching the Roman numerals for Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco. They’ll continue using Roman numerals after 50.

You’ve got a little bit of old school in you, Mike. You like the idea of celebrating No. 50 a little different?

Mike: Old school? How about very little school?

Honestly, I’ve had enough of the Roman numerals. When they get to Super Bowl 50, they should stick with Arabic numerals for I, II or even V years as a test to see if there’s any criticism. I doubt if anyone will complain about seeing logos for Super Bowl 51, 52 or 53.