CLOSE

Detroit News sports writers on the Lions defensive matchup against the Giants this weekend.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE


Allen Park — In the first three weeks, the Lions defense is the best statistically in the NFL, ranking second against the run and third against the pass.

Last week, the Lions held the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers to seven points and are allowing an average of 15 points per game, ranking second in that category behind the Bengals. That's given the Lions some momentum heading into Sunday's matchup against the Jets, who are ranked second in overall defense.

Jets coach Rex Ryan highlighted the Lions defense in his Wednesday teleconference, focusing on the defensive line — specifically, the defensive tackles — and making comparisons to one of the game's greats.

"For them, it starts with Ndamukong Suh and then you have (Nick) Fairley. Suh is probably as close to Warren Sapp as I've seen, just a phenomenal player," Ryan said. "Then you have a bunch of ends out there, regardless of what number is out there, they've done a tremendous job, so it starts with trying to get after them."

Suh, in his fifth season, doesn't always get the statistics to warrant the lauding, but opposing coaches know his value to creating a pass rush and opening opportunities for Fairley and the other linemen — much like Sapp did in disrupting the middle during his time with the Buccaneers and Raiders.

In Ryan's mind, that's what makes the comparison between Sapp and Suh so appropriate.

"(Sapps)'s a Hall of Famer — it doesn't get much higher than that. (Suh)'s fun to watch," Ryan said. "He's got an excellent motor and he's got skills. He has unusual balance, he's not off his feet; he's able to play with power and finesse and it's a rare combination in a guy that's obviously a difference-maker."

Suh has had a contentious relationship with Sapp, who has criticized Suh several times in his role as an NFL Network analyst. But Suh knows the comparisons are a bit premature, given his comparatively small body of work.

"It's always great to be compared to a Hall of Famer. Another great players they said I played very similar to was Mean Joe Greene," Suh said. "I appreciate it but I still have a lot of work to do before I reach either one of those guys."

Greene, a stalwart on the line for the Pittsburgh Steelers' dynasty in the 1970's, is an imposing figure that Suh chooses to model his game after. Suh said he and Greene have talked about their games and how Suh can continue to improve.

"Mean Joe Greene was a guy that was very dominant and imposed his will on a lot of guys he went against," Suh said. "He took on the double-teams and made the plays he needed to make and is somebody I can emulate my game after.

"I've had great talks with him in the past and learned a lot in knowing how to handle myself and continue to be dominant in this league."

Suh has eight total tackles, including two for losses, and one sack this season. But his ability to force double-teams and for offensive coordinators to game-plan for his presence is part of what makes him such a formidable tackle.

"He's much more athletic than most guys playing the position — that's what jumps out at you," Ryan said. "He can beat you with power, with finesse, with head-and-shoulder fakes, he's got a great get-off the football and he's got the right guy (Jim Washburn) coaching him.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE