Nick Fairley‘s performance against the Green Bay Packers showed why the Lions took him with the 13th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. Furthermore, his play paired with Ndamukong Suh was just the sort of thing Lions fan envisioned when the somewhat surprising pick was announced.
Suh had his moments but he was routinely double-teamed and Nick Fairley took advantage to the tune of five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Fairley’s play has really taken off since moving into the starting lineup with Corey Williams nursing a knee injury. So much so that the Lions should make Fairley’s place in the starting lineup permanent.
This isn’t an anti-Williams opinion by any means – in fact, I think his contributions to the Lions defensive line are often underrated. But Williams is in the last year of his contract and Nick Fairley is clearly a future starter on the Lions defensive line. With Fairley playing at a high level and the Lions’ 2012 season virtually over, why wait?
The Lions have taken it slow with Nick Fairley but he has earned the right to have the process expedited from here on out. If the Lions plan on making him a full-time starter next year – and it appears wise to do so – they might as well give Fairley more than a couple game stretch of starts as an injury replacement.
Is the Fairley we’ve seen in limited starts the Fairley that can be expected on a consistent basis as a starter? With six games remaining, would Fairley hit a wall with a starter’s workload? Those are important questions to answer if Fairley is to take on a bigger role next year and answering them this year, even in part, gives the Lions an advantage heading into next season.