As rookie Ndamukong Suh becomes more initiated within Detroit's afoot training camp, a delayed education that could take weeks to rectify, at least one player benefited from the frustrating moratorium.
At 6-foot-4, 329-pounds, second-year defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill is one of the few bodies capable of 'replacing' Suh's presence in the trenches. In Suh's absence, Hill had taken the bulk of repetitions with the first team, a familiar setting for a rookie that was thrust into the line-up a year ago, notching 12 starts.
"Hill has taken the biggest step that I've seen him take in his short career," said coach Jim Schwartz on Wednesday. "He was a rookie last year and experienced a lot of rookie things"
A fourth-round pick from tiny, division II Stillman College, Hill was considered a project upon entering the league. And on a team that is featuring a revamped line in 2010, the acquisition of DT Corey Williams and massive investment in Suh have done the improbable: cast a shadow upon a man who has done the same to others his entire life.
But in his brief opportunity, Hill was able to remind everyone of his own larger-than-life presence.
"I think this year, going out and working with Corey (Williams) and Kyle (Vanden Bosch) and all those other guys out there, he manned up a little bit," said Schwartz. "I think that was good for us that Sammie came in and had such a good thing. Sammie is going to be a good player in this league."
Defensive Ends Manning Up Against The Run
Although he cautioned that the true results of his defensive line won't come until they play a real opponent (on August 14, the Lions have an exhibition match with Pittsburgh), Schwartz has been pleased with its play. Notably, pass rush specialist Cliff Avril.
Since Detroit's defensive philosophy is to essentially force the opponent's run game into the teeth of its defensive line, the ability to show effective pursuit is key.
"Technique-wise, we're another year into knowing exactly how we want to play," he said. "I think in the run period that we did yesterday, you could see guys like Corey (Williams), Kyle (Vanden Bosch) and even Cliff Avril -– who's traditionally been better against the pass than the run –- he had an outstanding period.
"I think we have some good signs."
Schwartz on Suh
After missing several practices due to the holdout, there is concern that Suh might have difficulty adjusting to the tempo and level of his teammates. Schwartz acknowledged that it was a "concern," but was optimistic that the team's top pick would eventually catch up.
"There's still time to catch up and things like that. I think that there are a lot of things that are all about opportunity," said Schwartz. "Some of those, once it passes, you never get it back. Coming out here on a hot day like this, pushing through a full padded practice yesterday, just hanging out in the team hotel playing cards right before curfew with your teammates and in the locker room and all that stuff, there's a value to all of it.
"He's behind in all of that. Can he catch up? He probably can catch up pretty quickly. But these guys are in a much better, much different place than he'll probably be right now. Like I said, I'm anxious to see him this afternoon and it would be nice to get him back on the field."