It's amazing to see what one game can do for a guy's national presence. After last Thursday night's Missouri game, Ndamukong Suh has gotten an enormous amount of attention from across the nation. In a single week, Suh garnered the following awards:
- Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week
- Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week
- Bronco Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week
- Lott Trophy IMPACT Player of the week
Not bad for a week's work.
Fans (and most pundits) tend to measure defensive linemen by the number of tackles and sacks they get. Unfortunately, sacks are getting tougher to come by, especially in the Big 12 where most of the offenses have moved to spread formations that concentrate on getting the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly. Tackles could be discussed here, but they're most likely being discussed everywhere else, so it's time to look at other things Suh does incredibly well (if incredibly well were just short of solving the world's economic problems).
If defensive linemen can't get a sack, then the next best thing they can do is be disruptive. Defensive linemen are taught at an early age to get their hands up, if for no other reason than to obscure the quarterback's vision. Suh has taken this concept to an entirely new level, as he's shown an uncanny ability to get into the opposing quarterback's passing lane and bat down passes. He is currently tied for sixth in the nation in pass break-ups with seven. The closest defensive lineman to him in this category is Andre Watson of Southern Mississippi, currently tied for 98th.
It's evident that Suh has taken his disruptive abilities to a whole new level, as he had four pass break-ups against Missouri last week. If that doesn't sound ultra-impressive consider that he had three total in 2008 and only two in 2007.
It's rare that anyone talks about interceptions and defensive linemen in the same sentence, unless they're talking about downfield blocking during a return. Not so with Ndamukong Suh. At Missouri he grabbed his fourth career interception, setting up the game-winning touchdown. For Suh, such things are becoming commonplace - in 2008 he returned two interceptions for touchdowns, including one in which he acted as his own downfield blocker while simultaneously romping into the end zone.
Suh has done all this so far this season despite facing constant double teams. Offensive coordinators and quarterbacks must be aware of where he is on the field on every play. Unfortunately those things aren't easily measured, but if you're someone who uses statistics to measure a player, you'd better expand your horizon when considering Suh.