By Ashley Dunkak

PHOENIX – When star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh left the Detroit Lions in free agency a couple of weeks ago, many speculated the team would switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. Head coach Jim Caldwell shut down that speculation quickly Wednesday morning at the NFL owners meetings.

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“It’s not going to look any different than it did last year,” Caldwell said. “We’re extremely multiple, we did a little bit of everything, and I think you’ll see the same thing will happen this fall.

“Nothing’s going to change,” Caldwell added. “I’m not certain where all that came from, but nevertheless, just in terms of what we do, we’re a highly multiple team; we did a little bit of everything. If you take a look at our film, I think you’ll see that. That won’t change.”

Ideally, by using various looks Detroit will keep opponents tentative because they will not know what to expect.

“Multiplicity is key in our league,” Caldwell said. “It’s extremely important because of the fact that teams just can’t prepare for one look. We’re going to give you a number of different looks that you’re going to have to block in terms of pass protection; we’re going to give you a number of different looks when you decide to run the ball.

“You can’t always determine exactly where we’re going to be, and I think that’s the true value of being multiple,” Caldwell continued. “Some teams are not able to be multiple because of … the way their personnel is sort of developed in base. But ours, we have some multiplicity within it, so it’s a good thing.”

Last season the Detroit defense ranked as the best in the NFL in yards allowed and points allowed for much of the season, and the Lions ended the year as the second-best unit, trailing only the Seattle Seahawks.

The Lions recovered from the loss of Suh as best they possibly could when they traded for another perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle in Haloti Ngata, but the team will still have a challenge trying to replace Suh.

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“He’s a great player, there’s no question about it,” Caldwell said. “That’s one of the things that creates some difficulty, but in our particular case, he was great for us, did a tremendous job.

“I’m certain he’ll do the same thing for Miami,” Caldwell added, “but we couldn’t have found a better replacement than Haloti Ngata. Trust me, he is a pretty special individual. The great thing about it, often times when you end up getting a guy in a trade or free agency, you don’t know a whole lot about them. Sometimes you find out that maybe some area they’re strong, some areas they’re weak, things of that nature; you don’t have a full grasp of the individual. In this particular case, we do. [Defensive coordinator] Teryl [Austin] and I both had an opportunity to work with him, and I think you’re going to find him to be very, very capable at what he does – excellent.”

Caldwell seemed especially excited at the prospect of Ngata along with fellow defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker, who had interest from 18 teams before the Lions signed him after the New Orleans Saints declined to tender him.

“When you look at [Ngata] and also Tyrunn Walker, those two guys I think are going to give us a real unusual combination,” Caldwell said. “It’s not going to be just a normal pair. I think those guys are going to be able to give you some things that maybe you hadn’t seen in a little while, the combination of the two, particularly because of Walker’s versatility all across the board. And Haloti, I think all you have to do is look at film of him. Just take a look.”

The Lions as an organization had expressed optimism about retaining Suh. They made a competitive final offer to him, and by all accounts Suh liked Caldwell and the rest of the coaching staff and his teammates, but he chose to leave.

“It’s one of those things where, in our business, there are no guarantees,” Caldwell said, “and so you have to anticipate that that could happen, so you have to deal with that reality, you have to look and see what your alternatives are going to be if it does indeed happen, and that’s what we did.

“[Suh] and I had a great relationship, like I do, I think, with a lot of our players,” Caldwell continued, “but I do think obviously that we’ve certainly been able to shore up that area with a couple transactions.”

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