Analyst Predicts Big Turnaround Season for Lions’ Defensive Line

Levi Onwuzurike

Getty Lions defender Levi Onwuzurike pursues Aaron Rodgers in 2022.

Normally, when folks go looking for breakout candidates for teams, the analysis is limited to a player or two. The Detroit Lions seem to have bucked that trend in a good way.

Instead of just one player that could be seen as likely to make the leap, the team has a group of players that an analyst thinks could be on track for a major season in 2022. That could be great news for the team’s needy defense.

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Heading into 2022, NFL.com analyst Gregg Rosenthal named candidates to “make the leap” from NFC rosters. Detroit’s defensive line ended up being Rosenthal’s target, which he said should be considered a “great sign.” He also predicted “outstanding” line play on each side of the ball.

“Second-year pros Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill provide beef in the middle. The younger Okwara brother (Julian) is hitting his third season. While a pair of rookies (including No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson) don’t quite fit the parameters of this exercise, the Lions are rolling 8-to-9 deep in quality up front. The D-line can go from one of the league’s worst to a top-10 unit quickly,” Rosenthal wrote.

If the Lions’ defensive front did turn out to become a top 10 unit in the league, that would end up being big news for the team. Detroit was pushed around up front on defense in 2021, so getting things on a better track would be huge.

Lots of players could be expected to break out and take a step forward in Rosenthal’s mind.


Lions’ Defensive Line Looks Deep for 2022

In order to help in the turnaround, the Lions have prioritized some big moves along the defensive front that have not only restocked the depth, but given the team the makings of something good.

The team was able to draft edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson with the second-overall pick in 2022, and he has taken on a good look early for the Lions. Detroit also has young players from 2021 like Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike, and players like Jashon Cornell, Austin Bryant, Isaiah Buggs and Bruce Hector could make a jump. Veteran Michael Brockers also provides depth along with Charles Harris.

Add it up and there are plenty of pieces that could end up making the leap in Detroit. To that end, Rosenthal might not be wrong about the group becoming elite quickly.


Dan Campbell: McNeill and Onwuzurike Can Boost Line

As this analysis by Rosenthal points out, the young players on the defensive line are a big reason to be encouraged. That excitement also translates to head coach Dan Campbell.

Speaking to the media before practice on Thursday, July 28, Campbell talked about some of the challenges his defensive line will see this season. As he explained, the group can see a major turnaround thanks to McNeill and Onwuzurike strengthening the middle of the line.


Dan Campbell meets the media on Day 2 of Detroit Lions Training CampWatch Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell speak to the media before Day 2 of Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage July 28, 2022. Subscribe to the Lions YT Channel: bit.ly/2OABzdx More Lions NFL Action: bit.ly/2oxtfjX #DetroitLions #Lions #NFL Keep up-to-date on all things Lions: Visit detroitlions.com/ Follow: twitter.com/Lions Follow: instagram.com/detroitlionsnfl/ Like: facebook.com/DetroitLions2022-07-28T12:16:05Z

“Alim (McNeill) continues to grow, there’s things he does in there. Levi (Onwuzurike’s) got to be able to hold up in there, too. There’ll be some stuff he’s going to have to play in there. He may have to play the nose or the shade as well if need be, but the good news is, he’s a big man. He’s explosive, and he just continues to grow week to week on his technique. That’ll help us,” Campbell said.

This duo could end up being the biggest keys for Detroit’s season on defense, and if they have the breakout some expect, that could mean the Lions are very impressive up front.

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