Trying to stop the Lions' interior lineman duo of Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh is going to be a rush for the Jets offensive line — and that’s no bull.
The Lions defensive tackles' bull rush is one of many tricks in their bag but perhaps their most effective.
When done right, a successful bull rush can not only result in a broken play for the offense but a victory that demoralizes the line trying to protect a quarterback. A successful bull rush starts in the hips with good leverage. Because the move is straight speed and power, it is important to get as low as possible to gain vital leverage.
If done right, a bull rush can result in a sack, but often the move collapses the pocket, which can lead to a hurried throw, a batted down pass or a running back being tackled for a loss.
“You got to make sure you got your hands inside,” Jets right guard Brian Winters told Metro. “There’s a hop technique — you punch and then just hop to get your footing again. You have to make sure both your feet are in the ground. You’re lower than him; you don’t want to be higher. If you do, well, that’s not good.”
Winters smiled nervously after he said that line.
“You have to be patient, you can’t reach,” he said. “You have to be patient and wait for the counter move.”
Statistically, the Fairley-Suh combo doesn’t jump off the pages. Through three games, the Lions starting defensive tackles have combined for just 14 tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack. But the importance of their role in clogging up the middle and pushing the pocket back is underscored by more than just individual accolades.
The Lions are second in run defense and third in passing defense. Opponents have scored just 28 points against the team all season.
The Lions defense turned heads last Sunday in a statement game at home against the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was sacked only twice but hurried on numerous passes. His 47.7 QBR was the lowest he’s had since last October. The penetration was so good they registered six tackles for loss.
“Both those guys raise heck in there. ... Then they’ve got three or four good defensive ends,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “So, I think it’s definitely a tough group.”
Fairley and Suh are not only athletic and strong, both are incredibly long. Suh has arms that are 33 1/2 inches long. Fairley bests that with 34 3/4-inch arms. This is well above the norm for defensive tackles by a couple inches.
By comparison, Winters, the Jets' third-round pick last year, has arms two inches shorter than Fairley. That means more batted down balls and some extra reach to tackle a ball carrier.
It also means an advantage in a bull rush scenario, where a long reach gives a defensive player an instant edge to push back an interior lineman. That’s where Winters said good technique and a good, initial inside punch can be an equalizer.
He admits Sunday against Fairley and Suh will likely be the steepest test of his career.
“[Offensive line] coach Mike Devlin talked about it. The reason why we’re here is we like to be challenged,” Winters said. “When we’re challenged, we’ll step up. We have to do that on Sunday. Everyone knows it is a challenge for us. We have to take it and do what we do.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.