It didn't take long for new Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to see Nick Fairley as most around here long have.

"Nick Fairley, when he's on top of his game -- boy, he's really good," Austin said. "I mean, really good."

But that only begs the question, why isn't he at the top of his game more often?

And what will it take to get him there?

That's a question Austin can't yet answer, but intends to.

"Our goal is we want to make sure we give our guys the opportunity to play the best that they can all the time," Austin said. "We have to figure out how we can motivate, how we can get him to do that. Whatever it is that touches him that makes him do that, that's what we have to find out.

"Obviously, we haven't had a chance to sit down and talk about all those things or do those things with Nick, but the time will come from that. I think that, you know, we'll do whatever we can to try and help him be more successful because he can be a really dominant player. We just have to have him try and be a dominant player for 16 games. That's really our goal."

Fairley was drafted with the 15th overall pick three years ago, and occasionally flashes the talent to warrant such a high selection. The second half of a game in Chicago last year is a good example.

He pulverized Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in those two quarters, hitting him four times and sacking him once. Then Fairley blasted tailback Matt Forte in the backfield on a potentially game-tying two-point conversion try late in the fourth quarter.

Fairley has that kind of ability, but hasn't been able to string together those bursts for extended stretches. Figuring out a solution to that problem appears to be a foremost concern for his new defensive coordinator.

One theory that has been posed this offseason, from outside the organization as well as within it, is that Fairley is not in proper shape. He is listed at 298 pounds but appeared to play last season far north of that, perhaps even exceeding 320.