In the wake of the Lions’ 4-12 finish last season, there was a lot of talk about the need for more accountability and leadership from the team’s younger players.
The leadership need is even more acute now that the Lions have said goodbye to veterans like Jeff Backus, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams this offseason. One player that the Lions are looking at to fill that void is defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and coach Jim Schwartz thinks that Suh is making steps in that direction.
“That’s something he’s embraced,” Schwartz said, via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. “He’s been working very hard and he’s sort have been, I don’t want to say waiting for that opportunity, but when he came in as a rookie, he came in to a group that had a lot of veteran players, guys that had a lot of experience in the league and he did a good job learning behind those guys. But now that he’s a young veteran, it’s time for him and a lot of other guys to start showing that leadership and that comes from this time of year, comes from training camp, it comes from the regular season. Yeah, it’s time for guys like that to step up into some of those roles.”
McCosky includes the quote from Schwartz in a column urging the Lions to let Suh focus on playing with the hope that he turns into a player whose play makes him a leader “by deed” instead of words. McCosky references Calvin Johnson as another player who does that for the Lions and thinks Suh can have a similar impact on the defense. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch agrees with that assessment of the style that best suits Suh.
“No, he’s a quiet guy, you know how Suh is,” Tulloch said. “But I will say this, he’s very dominant. I can’t get mad at him. He can be as quiet as he wants. He’s probably the most dominant defensive tackle I’ve ever been around.”
If Suh can be as dominant as Tulloch says, it would make little difference whether or not he’s a rah-rah guy in team meetings or a Ray Lewis-type emotional leader in the huddle. The Lions should prioritize getting Suh to play at that level while letting the naturally vocal leaders on the team find their voices.