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Coaches: Lions' Suh better than ever

The SportsXchange

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Coaches don't need to break down a lot of film to understand how impressive Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has been through the first week of camp.

Testimonials indicate Suh has been conspicuously outstanding.

"Ndamukong had the best spring he's had since he's been here," coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's poised to have an outstanding year. He's always been in great shape but his understanding of the defense and his execution of that this spring was very impressive.

"It's hard to say that an All-Pro can take a jump, but I really think he can."

Suh had all the coaches shaking their heads in wonder during the full-team conditioning test last Thursday.

"I think he took it to a different level this year," Schwartz said. "Quite honestly, he made a mockery of the conditioning test, he really did. I mean Calvin (Johnson) does that every year, too. Calvin can run his times and barely even break a sweat and I think that's what those great athletes can do. Ndamukong did that."

He has been unstoppable in one-on-one drills with the offensive line. In an 11-on-11 drill Monday, he blew by rookie guard Larry Warford and veteran Jake Scott.

So, what might this fast start portend for Suh in terms of his goals for the season?

"I don't want to put any limits on my abilities," he said. "I want to leave it open-ended and have the opportunity to let the sky be the limit. And if the sky isn't the limit, then let the universe be the limit."

Suh has given a lot of credit to new defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who shares the position with Kris Kocurek. He also seems rejuvenated by some schematic adjustments defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham made this offseason.

The Lions have increased the size of their defensive ends with Jason Jones (6-5, 276), Israel Idonije (6-6, 275) and Ziggy Ansah (6-5, 271). The effect of playing alongside bigger ends who can rush inside has seemingly unchained Suh.

"I don't know if it has necessarily freed me up; I will hopefully still demand a double-team," Suh said. "But I think it's going to condense the pocket, without question."

Suh played alongside 260-pound Cliff Avril the last couple of years. Avril lined up wide and was a pure speed edge rusher. Suh had wider gap responsibilities. This year, with the bigger ends, his coverage should be narrower.

"It makes everything tighter and smoother inside so everything isn't spread out," Suh said. "There's no holes. The holes are collapsed either by a man's body or one of us in that gap."

--Team correspondents for The Sports Xchange contributed material for this story.
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