The Detroit Lions have been on the camp grind for a few weeks now, so some hints have begun to emerge about where players could stand in the pecking order ahead of 2022.
While some players have stepped to the forefront, some have also fallen backward a bit. For the Lions, one of their defensive lineman might be slipping a bit in the minds of the media.
Recently, Pro Football Focus and writer Doug Kyed took a look at one riser and one faller from training camps around the league. For the Lions, defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike was seen as the biggest faller.
As Kyed explained, just like in 2021, it could have a lot to do with injury.
“The 2021 second-round pick has been out with back and hip ailments after also missing time last season with injuries. Lions head coach Dan Campbell did say Tuesday that he expects Onwuzurike to be back for Week 1,” Kyed wrote in the piece.
It doesn’t seem as if the ailments are long-term, which is the very good news for Onwuzurike. He should be on track to return and play a role on Detroit’s defense.
How big will that role be? That remains to be seen, but so far, it doesn’t seem as if the Lions are that worried.
In spite of that, Kyed and PFF think that he may have taken a few steps backward after missing camp time.
Dan Campbell Not Worried About Onwuzurike
Even though Onwuzurike has been sidelined a bit, Dan Campbell isn’t worried about what this minor setback whatsoever for the player.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, August 9, Campbell admitted he didn’t think that Onwuzurike would be missing Week 1 barring an unforeseen circumstance, and revealed the team is simply trying to get the injury calmed a bit.
“No I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel that way, not right now I don’t. It would have to be something crazy would happen. I mean we just got to get it calmed down,” Campbell said. “The kid’s in a good place and he’s getting back from it. He’s put in a lot of good work and so we’ll get him calmed down and get him right get him realigned and I think he’ll be fine.”
Campbell also downplayed Onwuzurike’s potential struggles with readiness after missing time, saying all players need reps to get ready.
“You know all the reps he can get are good for him. He needs them,” Campbell said. “He needs all of them just like all these young players do, but at the same token, he’s doing all he can to (get better) and we’re doing all we can do to help him get back out there. He’s getting better every day. He’s progressing so we’ll just take it as it comes.”
At this point, seeing where Onwuzurike is will simply have to play out when he sees the field. It could be a little while until that plays out.
Onwuzurike Stats & Highlights
Onwuzurike coming back would be huge for the Lions, and they need him to step up and play a starring role for the team on defense.
The Lions need some help in the trenches and Onwurzurike can theoretically provide it. He collected 95 tackles in his time in college to go with 16 tackles for-loss and 7 sacks. Onwurzurike opted out of the 2020 season, but showed well in 2019 when he played. Heading into the NFL, Onwuzurike looked like a physical and tough presence in the trenches and a great player in the middle of a defense.
In Detroit, Onwuzurike started to show some signs of coming into his own on the field late in 2021. He collected 9 total tackles last year and showed some of the burst he did in college when he secured his first sack on Thanksgiving Day:
In time, the Lions hope that Onwuzurike develops into a force. Given the injury setback, it may have to wait a bit on the field in terms of practice. At this point, only time will tell if the missed action was a detriment or not.