Former NFL GM: ‘Keep Track of’ Potential Breakout on Detroit Lions Defense

Alim McNeill Lions

Getty Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill (#54).

Randy Mueller, the 2000 NFL Executive of the Year, brings over 30 years of experience in the football business, including stints as the general manager of Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. With Heavy, Mueller breaks down the NFL from a front office perspective. You can follow Randy on Twitter @RandyMueller_

Keep an Eye on Detroit Lions DT Alim McNeill

In my biggest surprise of Week 11, the Detroit Lions throttled the New York Giants by holding them to 89 yards rushing in a 31-18 road win. The note for me about this game was that the Lions’ young and aggressive defensive front feasted on the holiday week versus a Giants offensive line that has been performing well, for the most part, in allowing them to control games at times and keep them close.

We saw the interception by No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson on a zone blitz concept, but a closer look on video showed me a name you might want to keep track of as well: Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill, a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft out of North Carolina State.

McNeill kicked butt and took names in really overpowering the Giants’ interior group. Equally impressive against the run and pass McNeill will be on the minds of Buffalo Bills guards in Week 12 as they prepare for what I think will be a closer game than we might think when the Bills make their second trip to Detroit in four days for a game at Ford Field.

Detroit is finally showing signs of coming together as a team, even though their talent level and depth are still lacking.

The Zach Wilson Experience

The other New York football team had some drama of its own in the aftermath of a horribly ugly Week 11 loss to the New England Patriots. I’m not sure what was worse:

  • The 6 first downs the Jets generated in four full quarters
  • The 44 yards passing put up by QB Zach Wilson
  • Or Wilson’s immature and less-than-humble postgame press conference where he took no accountability for what had just happened

I think the Jets had no choice but to bench Wilson in Week 12 and I realize hurting his feelings pails in comparison to hurting the feelings of the rest of the locker room.

Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021, was bad, and that kind of performance cannot be sugar-coated. In fact, I do not believe that his benching is the end of his Jets career.

I think he will be back (the Jets are 5-2 in his starts this season). But I also think more people than the QB have to be put on notice. The offensive design and scheme was just as poor as Wilson’s performance and head coach Robert Salah elected to punt the ball right down the middle of the field at the game’s end instead of kicking it out of bounds — the result of which was a “walk-off” 84-yard punt return touchdown by Patriots rookie Marcus Jones.

If I was the GM of the Jets, I would be asking some hard-hitting questions behind our own walls and would be wondering why the QB looked so ill-prepared and could not connect the dots of reading and processing from the pocket. After all, these were his strengths while at BYU.

My point is the disconnect we now see with Wilson needs to be examined more thoroughly than just benching him and moving on.

Arizona Cardinals: Trouble in the Desert?

Monday night in Mexico City, the Arizona Cardinals put on film one of the most “mail it in” efforts of the 2022 season, especially late in the Week 11 matchup versus the division rival San Francisco 49ers.

On defense, in particular, I saw players pulling off tackles and making what insiders call- “making business decisions” to preserve their own bodies. It was a bad look not only for the team but for the league and the game of football.

This is an Arizona team that doubled down on its leadership in the offseason by signing their general manager, head coach and quarterback to multi-year, big-money extensions.

Usually, this kind of lack of effort performance comes with players getting to the point of tuning out the coach. His side of the ball, offense, has been less than average in most of the Cardinals’ 11 games so far in 2022. So has the performance of his hand-picked QB, Kyler Murray.

Has this team given up on the message or the ability of leadership to rally the troops?  Should make for an interesting finish to the regular season in the Valley of the Sun.

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