On Tuesday July 7, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata spoke to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press about his role in the team’s defense and the natural comparisons to Ndamukong Suh.
During the interview Ngata dropped this nugget:
“It’s exciting [to be in Detroit], man. I’ve never been a part of a defense like this. You have so many athletes: J.J., Ziggy, Caraun, Darryl Tapp. You just have so many playmakers all over the front on the D-line. I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
But before everyone goes off on the former Ravens great, let’s put things into perspective. ~ Tony Lombardi
“Changing to this type of defense is exciting.” ~ Haloti Ngata
It’s hard to argue with Haloti Ngata’s comments from a PR standpoint, or a statistical one.
PR is the no brainer- you walk into a new team with an already talented defense, the media prods you about comps to your old team who was known for its defense (well… omitting a few recent years), and the only non-controversial response is exactly what Ngata said.
From a statistical standpoint, you have to read between the lines with Ngata’s words. He never said this Detroit D is the best he’s been a part of; yet instead, noted that it’s a different type of defense. His name dropping of the D-Line suggests that he feels he has never had this type of D-Line surrounding him.
Can you argue with him (or would you argue with a man of his stature)?
And maybe that improved supporting cast will finally help his anemic sack line.
Since entering the league in ’06, Ngata has never had more than 5.5 sacks in a season, which is surprising for a Pro Bowl DT. Meanwhile, the man/beast/river-dancer he’s replacing in Suh has never had less than 9 sacks in a season, and double digit sacks every year but one.
Here’s an eye-opener — Suh has had more than twice as many sacks (59) in 5 years than Ngata (25.5) has in 9 years.
Could it be that teams could focus on Ngata when his surrounding cast in the trenches didn’t pose a threat in Baltimore, while Suh had a great line that created constant chaos and helped him reach the backfield with ease? Hard to say, but I’d be willing to bet Ngata lingers closer to the 5 sack line he’s accustomed to. Not that sacks are the end-all-be-all of stats for a D Lineman, but when you look at what Suh has done in his career in Detroit, that’ll be a major focal point for Lions fans.
That said, Ngata was part of a terrific ’06 defense, one that I’d venture to say was the 2nd best overall defense in team history. Looking at their overall D rankings in Ravens team history, that ’06 group stacked up quite nicely on the basic stat lines versus other seasons and they compare very favorably to Ngata’s new mates.
They lagged far behind the infamous 2000 defense in forced fumbles (26 in ’00) and the rush ypg that year will forever be untouchable, but to be able to say ’06 boasted the most sacks and interceptions for that D makes them worthy of a 2 spot in my book.