Whenever the preseason conversation turns to the expectation level of the Detroit Lions, I usually tune out. A lot of that has to do with my own hardcore cynicism when it comes to our gridiron gladiators.
For years, I’ve believed that if Super Bowl success was measured in talk, the Lions would be perennial Super Bowl champions.
However, with the emergence of Matthew Stafford, Detroit finally has the quarterback who should elevate the franchise to heights that, for the legions of Lions fans, was just a pipe dream for decades.
Heading into the 2012 season, the Lions seem to have more detractors than believers, especially on the national level, despite being a playoff team and winning 10 games last year.
Some of the doubt surrounding Detroit has to do with the plethora of arrests during the offseason. In the minds of many pundits, offseason problems translate to on-the-field issues, and only the young Lions can change that perception.
It’s what you do on the field that’s the final judge of your worth as a football team, and Detroit needs one player and his unit to rebound from last year’s season of disappointment.
If Stafford is Detroit’s most important player and Calvin Johnson is their best player, then Ndamukong Suh is the Lions’ glue player, the man who makes it all come together.
Suh and his mates on the defensive line were big-time underachievers last season and must meet their lofty expectations this year if the Lions hope to repeat as a playoff team.
Stafford and Johnson will do their thing offensively. It’s a porous defense that will determine the Lions’ fortunes. And the best way for the defense to improve is for Suh to become a beast, a force that wreaks constant mayhem on the opposition.
With Suh and the rest of the line picking up their play, Detroit’s linebacking and secondary corps become less of a liability. If you can dominate at the point of attack, your defense will win most of the battles.
For his part, Suh seems to be a changed player. He understands the significant role he plays in the grand scheme of things and is saying all the right things.
Regardless of his motivation — the cynic in me believes Suh Inc. realizes that major celebrity status comes with being an NFL superstar — it doesn’t really matter.
As long as Suh plays a ferocious, disciplined and dominate game, he can morph into one of the “beautiful people” during the offseason. But before he can do that, he must transform himself into a focused football player.