Friday, March 26, 2010

What Dreams May Come 2010 - Ndamukong Suh

We’ve become far too comfortable with the term “monster”. In an effort to keep us afraid, the 24 hour news cycle has started labeling anything evil, or even just bad in some cases as the result of monsters, as if people doing monstrous things are monsters by definition. This is, of course, no truer than saying that a business traveler who flies with frequency is a bird. Mere men as monsters makes them seem distant and easy, as if they succeed only because we don’t know what they’re doing. But real monsters, the kind that existed in myth before we needed to make everyone afraid of everything for financial or political gain, are monsters because they will not be stopped by our knowledge or tactics. They will not stop at all; it isn’t in their nature. Monsters just keep coming, keep attacking, keep hunting you, and the worst of them are always a step ahead of you, meeting you with teeth bared as you change direction to escape or laughing at an attack that they always knew was coming. We fear monsters because of not only the things they do, but also the terrifying way they are. Ndamukong Suh, then, has the potential to be the scariest monster in football.

All of this is to say that the Rams stand at the doorway of making this year’s stunning draft mistake, the biggest since the JaMarcus Russell debacle. They’re about to take Sam Bradford because while Ndamukong Suh is the greatest talent in this draft, he doesn’t fit the need that they have at quarterback, the “most important” position. If you would give me just one moment, I can’t think of anything stupider than the idea that because one position is perceived as more important than another, that somehow makes up for a huge disparity in talent between two players. If anything, shouldn’t that make a team LESS likely to draft a quarterback who could be “good” with the first overall pick? Meanwhile, Suh could change the position of DT (this sounds more hyperbolic than it is; the first overall pick should do something uniquely special at his position). Suh’s physicality (5.03 second 40, 35.5 inch vertical, and 32 reps on the bench press) is such that he has the ability to shift gears and use the threat of his direct attack to create chaos by dropping back. In zone coverage, he has the quickness of a linebacker, finding ways to disrupt passes and throw off quarterbacks who think they’ve found timing. Even Albert Haynesworth, the most highly regarded DT in the league, doesn’t have this proficiency in the defensive backfield. Suh is a Predator in a DT landscape filled with Mike Myers clones, able to spring traps as easily as he can aggressively shatter the safety of the offensive backfield.

Of course, this versatility is the twist that makes Suh unique; what makes him a monster are his pass rushes. His beautiful, terrible, deceptively simple pass rushes. Watch the video and witness the terrible truth that he doesn’t stop. Whether the play lasts three seconds or thirteen Suh is always advancing, always attacking, and always present in the quarterback’s state of mind. There’s good reason for this; Suh is scariest when he appears to have been lost in the play. His ability to manhandle offensive linemen is something that happens so often that it becomes almost commonplace (ALMOST…I want to be clear that there is nothing commonplace about his physical dominance on the field), making the image of him forcing linemen back and closing in on a quarterback like Poe’s pendulum lose some of its rightful terror. What you never really get used to are the plays where it looks like the offense has shaken him, only to have him pop into the action from out of nowhere. Watch the highlight reel for the plays where he vanishes from sight and then suddenly reappears to pounce on the ball carrier seconds later. THAT is some monster action right there. The same relentless pursuit that makes him push through blockers is what has quarterbacks shaken even when he’s not around. They know he’s coming, because they’ve seen the same tape we have, and they know that he’s not going to stop until they act or get crushed. He’s Jaws, or maybe even death itself, closing in and terrifying even when he’s not immediately visible simply by virtue of his existence. Ask Soren or Ivan what that sort of proximity to death does to a man.

If the thought of Ndamukong Suh wreaking havoc is exciting, then the thought of him entering the league feeling slighted has me thrilled. This sort of versatility combined with relentless, unstoppable power and pursuit hasn’t been seen on the defensive line since Jason Taylor, and Suh is stronger than Taylor ever was. He thrives off of both his actual ability and the fear that that ability creates in opponents. It’s that fear that sets the tone of every play in which he’s involved. He doesn’t go away when you change or tweak; you still need to run, because he’s only a step away from being on top of you. That, my friends, is what makes a monster.

1 comment:

Morgan Lovsin said...

I pray he's a Lion after draft day.