Nick Fairley picked up his game for the Detroit Lions last season with 35 tackles; 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and improved play against the run and pass, flashing some of the talent that encouraged the Detroit Lions to add him with the 13th overall selection in 2011. He shares the offensive line with fellow tackle Ndamukong Suh and a third first round pick in this year’s addition Ziggy Ansah.
Ansah will likely be part of a rotation featuring himself, Jason Jones and Willie Young – and perhaps fourth round selection Devin Taylor – suggesting that even though the Lions lost some talent at the position this offseason (saying goodbye to Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril) they may be stronger at stuffing the run and getting after opposing QBs.
Whether the young line will be able to improve over last year’s results remains to be seen, but, for his part Fairley is quite confident. He told Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website “You won’t be able to double-team Ziggy or Jason Jones or Willie (Young). You have to pick who you’re going to bring your back to chip. We’re going to feed off each other, and when we get that chemistry down, it’s going to look real good for us.”
If the Lions can indeed develop a feeding frenzy along their defensive front it should help their secondary which has long been identified as a trouble spot. They’ve addressed the position through the draft in recent years, nabbing a starter in Bill Bentley last year and using a second round pick on Darius Slay, but the best way to help the unit which allowed 26 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions last season may be by increasing the pressure they apply to opposing quarterbacks. In a division where they will see Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers twice (sorry, Christian Ponder) it makes sense to devote resources to preventing the pass.
Detroit slipped in 2012 after a strong 2011 campaign and they find themselves in the midst of a division that boasted three teams with 10 wins or mote last year but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to envision a return to the playoffs if things click just right with the defensive line. It’s something that Fairley sees as likely; the rest of us will need to wait until September to see.