O'HARA: Teryl Austin likes what he's seen from Ndamukong Suh

Posted Feb 7, 2014

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin says he's gotten positive vibes from DT Ndamukong Suh about his desire to be part of a winner in Detroit

Teryl Austin likes what he has seen Ndamukong Suh do on the playing field from watching tape of the Lions’ All-Pro defensive tackle, and he likes what Suh has had to say in their brief conversations.

Those impressions represent a good start for Austin who is less than one month into his job as the Lions’ new defensive coordinator.

There are a lot of questions to answer for head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff as they take over a team that finished out of the playoffs by losing six of the last seven games in an epic collapse.

Teryl AustinDefensive Coordinator Teryl Austin (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Many of those questions include the defense. Among them: how to improve a pass rush that ranked 28th in the league with 33 sacks, what kind of help to get for a secondary where Chris Houston was the only cornerback with an interception, and whether the overall philosophy will be to attack more than the Lions have done in the recent past.

In the first week of February, most teams have more questions than answers, and the Lions are no exception. Some of those concern Suh. There have been reports that Suh liked working under Kris Kocurek and Jim Washburn, the two defensive line coaches who were retained by Caldwell.

Suh also is entering the final year of the five-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2013. He has been in the process of changing agents, and there is no way of knowing what impact that will make on negotiations.

Although Suh has been a lightning rod for speculation and controversy in his four seasons as a Lion, there is no question about his ability to dominate in the trenches. At a press conference Friday introducing Austin and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, Austin said that since being hired on Jan., 17, he has gotten positive vibes from Suh about his desire to be part of a winner in Detroit.

"I’ve seen him a few times around," Austin said. "We didn’t talk about schemes. We just talked. We’ll have plenty of time to talk about football.

"The one thing I can tell talking to the guy is, he really wants to win. That’s really the most important thing. It’s not so much if he goes to the Pro bowl. I think he really and truly wants to be part of a winner.

"That’s good. You want your best players to be for the team and to be able to say, ‘Okay, the most important thing for me is winning, not how many awards I get.’

"I kind of felt that from him."

Suh’s contract situation with the Lions will work its way out, one way or another.

he bottom line is that the defense is built on a front four that has three first-round draft picks – Nick Fairley, Ziggy Ansah and Suh – and it’s better with Suh than without him. The heat on opposing quarterbacks comes from a defensive line that produced 25.5 of the 33 sacks last season.

The Lions have not been a strong blitzing team. It seems like that will change, although Austin has given no indication that the Lions’ defense will turn into an all-out blitzing unit.

"You can’t pressure all day," Austin said. "You can’t just play four-man all day. Obviously if you’re going to pressure, you have to be able to be able to cover in the back and give our guys some time to get home.

"I can promise, we won’t be blitzing every play, and we won’t be four-man rushing every play."

Austin talked about the coaching associations that have influenced his career. Caldwell is as at the top of that list. Austin also talked about the time he worked under Lloyd Carr at Michigan and his stay with the Baltimore Ravens, where current Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was defensive coordinator in 2011, Austin’s first year in Baltimore.

Pagano taught him to keep the pressure on and not back off.

"He always kept an aggressive mindset," Austin said. "His deal was, ‘We’re going to continue to attack until we just can’t attack anymore. Sometimes you get a little gun shy when you call something that doesn’t work. You’re afraid to go back to it. That was never his deal.

"He’d say, ‘It didn’t work. Here’s why it didn’t work. Let’s get it fixed and move on. Let’s play this defense because it’s good for us.’"