When the Detroit Lions look back on their rookie class from 2021, they are likely to feel as if the group set a solid foundation for the future and was perhaps the class that helped turn things around permanently.
As the season has finished up, the class continues to get accolades for what they were able to do on the field early in their careers. Not only have several starred on the field, but multiple others have been credited by outside publications for their work.
The latest Lions news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Lions newsletter here!
A pair of Detroit rookies got one of the ultimate forms of praise following the conclusion of the season by being named to the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie team. The Lions scored one player on each team from each side of the ball. On offense, tackle Penei Sewell was named a top rookie tackle for last season and on defense, tackle Alim McNeill was singled out by the site up front.
As explained in the piece by writer Ben Linsey, Sewell’s work wasn’t always elite, and he rebounded from a rough start to settle in while playing right tackle for the Lions down the stretch. Buoyed by that, he would finish the season as one of the top six right tackles in football as a rookie. As Linsey wrote, Sewell should only be expected to get better as he adjusts to the right side.
McNeill cracked the team as PFF’s second-highest graded rookie, and was lauded by Linsey and the site for flashing quickness as well as power in the run game. As he wrote, there’s plenty to be excited about for 2022 watching McNeill play his first season in the league.
With McNeill and Sewell, the Lions have a pair of building blocks for the future on both of their lines, which is important and significant for the team’s future.
Recapping Sewell’s Rookie Season
To say that the 2021-22 season was a strong start for Sewell and his career in the league is more than a bit of an understatement. The offensive tackle excelled no matter where he was playing, and managed to catch the eye of sites like Pro Football Focus multiple times. Sewell was one of the top-graded tackles in the league as a rookie, and routinely opened eyes for his ability to keep whomever was playing quarterback for the Lions upright as well as helping the running game succeed. Sewell did not crack the Pro Bowl for his rookie work, but the fact he was stable on the field should be enough of a plus for the Lions moving forward. As a whole, Sewell started 16 total games for the Lions and was a mainstay up front for the team. Perhaps the signature moment for Sewell is when he refused to back down from Aaron Donald in a game:
Though he seemed unhappy with the results, the Lions should be happy with what Sewell accomplished and also love the fact that the rookie is hungry to keep building upon what figures to be a decent start by anyone else’s calculations.
McNeill’s Stats & Highlights
Entering his first season in the NFL, McNeill is bringing production with him to the big league. While playing for N.C. State, McNeill collected 77 tackles, 17.5 tackles for-loss, 10 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 5 passes defended. He also scored 1 touchdown in his career. Obviously, those are the type of numbers that point to a guy who can move around and make a lot of plays along a front, which is just what he will be asked to do with the Lions and their very needy defensive line no matter what role he plays.
Here’s a look at some highlights of McNeill getting after it:
The Lions saw some of that athleticism from the clips shine through to help McNeill become a star quickly for the team. This season, McNeill put up 39 total tackles, 2 sacks and 1 pass defended in 17 games played. It was a good start for the youngster’s career.
For a third-round pick, it’s an honor to be joining Sewell with this illustrious recognition for his play.
READ NEXT: Penei Sewell Offers Blunt Assessment of Solid Rookie Year