NFC North: Benjamin Watson

Inside Slant: Players must police Suh

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
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The NFL has taken more than $342,000 from Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in the form of six fines and one suspension for on-field transgressions. On Wednesday, in the aftermath of his most recent incident, Suh told reporters: "My play speaks for itself. I don't change."

So what now?

The NFL's escalating fine policy clearly hasn't had an impact, nor should it be expected to with a player who has earned more than $50 million in salary and bonuses over the past three seasons. And surely the league doesn't want to suspend a player, Suh or any other, for something as relatively minor as a low block.

So if anything productive has come from Suh's shot at the knees of Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan, it's the relatively forceful reaction from a more credible source of deterrence: his peers.

Suh's teammates, of course, rallied around him after a team meeting this week, but feedback elsewhere has been notable for its tone of brotherhood and demand of respect. A representative swath of league figures -- even the head of the NFL Players Association -- has suggested, in various ways, that responsibility for reining in Suh might ultimately fall on his fellow players.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh
AP Photo/Rick Osentoski"We are trying to have a clean game and these things are unnecessary," Saints tight end Benjamin Watson said of Ndamukong Suh's latest transgression.
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said the block on Sullivan was "uncalled for" but also added: "This is a fraternity. In the NFL, you try to take care of guys. Things happen, and guys are going to make hits. But you can't take a dude's legs out from behind on an interception return down the field."

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he thought Suh used "poor judgment." DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, tweeted that he reached out to Suh because "we believe that all players have a basic responsibility to each other."

Most tellingly, I thought, New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told NFL Network that other players need to start holding Suh accountable.

"This is about players getting on players and him deciding, 'Hey, I am going to abide by the rules,'" Watson said. "He is making it a danger for a lot of guys, and his conduct needs to stop."

Watson added: "It is a privilege to play in the NFL. It is not a right. Because of that, we have to respect each other, respect what each other are trying to do out here. We are trying to have a clean game and these things are unnecessary. … [I]f you care about your team, if you care about the guys you are in the game with, you are going to play within the rules. Again, player safety. Guys are out there trying to make a living, trying to go to work. It is frustrating to me, as a[n] offensive player, when a guy continues to do these sorts of things."

I know what many of Suh's supporters would say in this instance because I covered the Lions as part of the NFC North blog for five years. Many of you believe Suh's reputation has been inflamed and perpetuated by the media after his eventful rookie season, and I've corresponded with many who suggest that players are influenced by the same coverage.

That might be true in some cases. I think it's also fair to point out that Suh's total of personal fouls dropped from 10 in his first two seasons to one in 2012, according to the NFL's game statistics information system. But a 12th personal foul in the first game of a new season served as a sobering reminder of his past and potential future.

The Lions have always deferred discipline to the league, and the league hasn't had much success. I believe Suh when he says he doesn't plan to change his style. To this point, no one has given him a real reason to. That, unfortunately, leaves NFL players to police one of their own. We'll see if they're up to it.

Draft Watch: NFC North

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
12:00
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: history in that spot.

Chicago Bears

The Bears' top pick is No. 29 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: Cornerback Kyle Wilson (New York Jets)

2009: Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (New York Giants)

2008: Defensive end Kentwan Balmer (San Francisco 49ers)

2007: Offensive guard Ben Grubbs (Baltimore Ravens)

2006: Center Nick Mangold (New York Jets)

2005: Defensive back Marlin Jackson (Indianapolis Colts)

2004: Wide receiver Michael Jenkins (Atlanta Falcons)

ANALYSIS: The bottom of the first round is a great place to find starting-caliber guards and centers. The top tackles are usually off the board. Fortunately for the Bears, they could use a guard or center just as much as a tackle. While coach Lovie Smith wants to bring back veteran center Olin Kreutz, a free agent, he will have to be replaced someday. And more depth at guard could allow the Bears to move 2008 first-round draft pick Chris Williams back to left tackle.

Detroit Lions

The Lions' top pick is No. 13 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: Defensive end Brandon Graham (Philadelphia Eagles)

2009: Defensive end Brian Orakpo (Washington Redskins)

2008: Running back Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers)

2007: Defensive lineman Adam Carriker (St. Louis Rams)

2006: Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (Cleveland Browns)

2005: Offensive lineman Jammal Brown (New Orleans Saints)

2004: Receiver Lee Evans (Buffalo Bills)

ANALYSIS: Unfortunately for the Lions, this isn't a great spot to get an elite cornerback. Those types of players are usually drafted in the top seven or eight picks. (The Lions are hoping that Nebraska's Prince Amukamara somehow slips through the cracks.) This is a nice area to draft a second-tier defensive lineman, and this year, the Lions will probably have their pick of offensive tackles as well.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers' top pick is No. 32 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: Cornerback Patrick Robinson (New Orleans Saints)

2009: Defensive tackle Ziggy Hood (Pittsburgh Steelers)

2008: Defensive end Phillip Merling (Miami Dolphins)*

2007: Receiver Anthony Gonzalez (Indianapolis Colts)

2006: Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (New York Giants)

2005: Offensive guard Logan Mankins (New England Patriots)

2004: Tight end Benjamin Watson (New England Patriots)

*First pick of second round.

ANALYSIS: There are some awfully productive players on this list. Part of the reason is that the previous year's most successful organization was in that spot and thus was more likely to make a good scouting decision. But it also tells us the Packers should have an opportunity to select a player who can make an immediate impact as long as they don't limit themselves to certain positions.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings' top pick is No. 12 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: Running back Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers)

2009: Running back Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos)

2008: Offensive tackle Ryan Clady (Denver Broncos)

2007: Running back Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo Bills)

2006: Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata (Baltimore Ravens)

2005: Linebacker Shawne Merriman (San Diego Chargers)

2004: Linebacker Jonathan Vilma (New York Jets)

ANALYSIS: This list tells us what we knew already: You can get a blue-chip, impact player here if you exercise good judgment. The Vikings' decision, of course, will be complicated by their need for a quarterback. What will they do if they have, say, a potentially elite pass-rusher like North Carolina's Robert Quinn available to them? Take Quinn and look for a quarterback later? Or prioritize the quarterback?

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