He enters the field of play with an aura of horror. From the opening snap of the ball, to the final whistle, opposing quarterbacks are locked inside the fear-induced safe room of their minds. In reality, however, their bodies are battered, bruised, bloodied and are rendered powerless to his rabid onslaught. He is a beast of a man, possessing speed and strength that borders the inhuman. He is Detroit Lions' defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
At least, that's the type of player he was in 2010, during a rookie campaign that was wrought with intensity and excellent play, in one of the National Football Leagues' best, young defensive lines. Suh totaled 66 tackles, 10 sacks and more soiled quarterback jockstraps than anyone in history.
Last season, however, he transformed into the unfortunate scapegoat for the nation of Lions'-hating football fans, reasoning the team as little more than the next Oakland Raiders. With his struggles on and off the field, he barely managed 36 tackles and 4 sacks, leading some to question whether his rookie season was a fluke.
Under defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham's system, the pressure brought by the defensive line is paramount to the success of the rest of the defense's scheme. That pressure, though brought by one of the most interchangeable sets of linemen in the history of the game, must have a solid leader who can direct, motivate and intensify the rest of the defense. That is precisely who Suh must develop himself into - and it MUST happen this season.
With a fully-functional Suh destroying the middle of the offensive line, the rest of the defensive front is cleared for domination. If Suh cannot overcome last year's mental miscues, that block of the foundation falls, and so does the entire structure of the defense. In a time when Detroit is riding a successful season, and channeling it into a potential launching pad of continued success, Suh remains the last bastion of hope for a vastly-scrutinized defense.
With the emerging youth and inexperience of the Lions' defense, one man will have to become the face, heart and soul of that core. If Suh cannot be that man, then who else will?
The author, D. Benjamin Satkowiak, is a successful entrepreneur and published, freelance author, who has tailored works on various sports, health and fitness topics. He currently serves as a Yahoo! Contributor Network "Featured Contributor" and writes on the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, Great Lakes Loons and Notre Dame football.