Lions Defender Compares Team’s Offseason to Madden: ‘Gonna Be Crazy’

Alim McNeill

Getty Alim McNeill celebrates a Lions play against the Bears in 2021.

Alim McNeill has enjoyed a solid start to his career with the Detroit Lions, but even such, the team’s defense has struggled around him at times.

This offseason, that led the Lions to making some big moves in free agency, bringing in players like defensive backs Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. McNeill was watching that play out, and like fans, he was very excited by the moves.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, April 18, McNeill was asked about watching what the Lions did from the sidelines. As he said, the moves were giving him video game vibes, and he’s excited to see how they play out.

“It’s almost like we’re playing Madden. We added some pieces for sure. I’m excited to see what we can do. It’s gonna be crazy. I just want to see how everybody looks, how we jell together. So it’s been exciting to see. I can’t wait,” he explained.

Some of the more unheralded additions the Lions made came from within, and played out along Detroit’s defensive front. John Cominsky and Isaiah Buggs came back, which made for some excitement for McNeill given what they provide the team.

“Glue pieces, that’s exactly what they are. (John) Cominsky, (Isaiah) Buggs, just older guys for people to learn from. They have more experience than a lot of us do in the room in things that they’ve seen and they’ve done over the years. They’re able to pass it on to us, and being able to have them back in the room another year with us is huge especially, for the younger guys and guys like me who just want to learn and get experience,” McNeill said.

Both with the new players as well as the returning players, the Lions could have a good leg-up for the future on the defensive side of the ball. Already, McNeill sees it as a solid mixture for the team moving forward.

The team’s free agents might be even more excited to suit up with McNeill when they hear how he is feeling to start a new year.

Alim McNeill Details Body Transformation

In terms of his own game, McNeill knows that he wants to turn things around starting in 2023 and find his own level of consistency. In order to do that, he set out on a bold new offseason plan.

McNeill stopped eating red meat, and started drinking more water while avoiding candy. It’s something that has made the difference already in terms of how he feels on the field when getting workouts in.

“I really stopped eating things like red meat. I feel like it was kind of like bloating me a little bit. So I just kind of cut that out and I’ve been feeling way better since I’ve done that. Just being able to portion out my foods a little better, not eating crazy amounts of food for no reason at one time. More water. Stuff like that. Really basic stuff and cutting out candy, all that type of stuff,” McNeill explained.

As a result, McNeill can already feel the benefits when he has gotten on the field in terms of flexibility, agility and speed.

“I feel so much better. A lot more lean. I’m a lot more flexible, can bend and stuff a lot better now. I was just talking to one of my guys about it and he asked me how I felt too. I was just like ‘I feel lean. I just feel faster. I just feel a lot better,'” McNeill said.

The goal of the transformation? Finding some more consistency on the field, and being able to make more impact plays more regularly.

“For me it was consistency, being able to do it every snap, every game. We’ve had a couple games where I liked a couple things I did or coach might have liked it, but I just want to be more consistent. I want to make those plays almost every play like I’m seeing some guys around the league being able to do,” McNeill said. “I’m just watching. I’m just like, ‘I can do the same things.’ That’s what it was for me. So I just took more of a professional approach to this offseason diet-wise and things I was doing. I’m stretching three times a day now and all the training and stuff I was doing. I just took a more professional approach to things this year, but consistency is the biggest thing for me.”

Armed with a healthier body that is feeling a bit better, McNeill hopes he can chase down some bigger numbers on the field in 2023. Given how his career has already progressed, that would not be a big surprise.

Alim McNeill Enjoyed Solid 2022 Season

As McNeill mentioned, he had some solid games during the 2022 season, and has done a nice job to get his career off the ground in a big way since being a third-round pick in 2021 out of North Carolina State.

Last season, McNeill’s best game came when he shut down Saquon Barkley and the New York Giants ground attack as part of a 34-16 win. After that effort, McNeill got some love from Pro Football Focus. He was named the Defensive Player of the Week by the site, and the writeup explained that his ability to be a menace up front was a big reason why.

“McNeil was a constant presence in the Giants backfield in Week 11. He recorded 10 total pressures — the most by an interior defender in a single game this season — and a 31.0% pass-rush win rate en route to a 90.7 pass-rush grade,” the site wrote in its recap that week.

Last year, McNeill put up a solid 41 tackles and one sack to go with six tackles for-loss and seven quarterback hits. McNeill managed to finish his 2022 season even better than 2021, considering he put up 39 tackles and two sacks last season.

Paired with a beefed-up defense, an improve McNeill can now set his sights on helping the Lions to make a difference.

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