Levi Onwuzurike Cited for ‘Standout’ Performance vs. Steelers

Levi Onwuzurike

Getty Levi Onwuzurike during the Lions game against the Steelers.

It’s been a big start to the season for the Detroit Lions rookie class, and one of the players that some might be forgetting about is defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike.

After being slowly brought along in camp and during the preseason thanks to injury concerns, Onwuzurike announced his presence in a big way against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night in his first taste of NFL action.

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After the game, Onwuzurike was credited with what many would see as a meager stat line with just 1 tackle on the night, but Pro Football Focus looked beyond that and saw a very active performance from Detroit’s rookie lineman. As writer Michael Renner wrote in a breakdown of the team’s game, Onwuzurike was a major bright spot for the Lions generating a pair of pressures on 10 pass-rushing snaps as well as a run stop. This was enough to earn him the moniker of a standout, along with Julian Okwara.

Detroit’s defense as a whole struggled most of the night, but seemed to galvanize in the second half, boosted by the play of rookies like Onwuzurike as well as linebacker Derrick Barnes. This bodes well for the future, especially considering both players have been brought along slowly during camp and the preseason.

Onwuzurike didn’t see much time, but he did flash when he was on the field, which is very good news for a needy Detroit defensive front.

Levi Onwuzurike Feeling ‘Ready’ for 2021 Season

In spite of the good feelings of coming back and the potential dominating performance in a small amount of work, Onwuzurike wasn’t ready to say everything was perfect at all. As he explained, he wasn’t satisfied with the start, as he was merely working back on the field.

Speaking with the media on Saturday, August 21 after the game, Onwuzurike self-evaluated his performance, and as he said, he wasn’t as good as he could be even though it was a decent debut.

“I think I did solid, not where I wanted to be 100%. I didn’t play to my standard. Obviously getting back to the things, from feeling tired on the field. But I think a solid day, nothing crucial,” he said.

With that in mind, however, Onwuzurike did admit he liked being back out there for game action and feels as if he is ready for the regular season when it comes given the work he has seen.

“I feel like I am ready for it. I think today was something real good to get in, feel good, you know fill your body out, take double teams feel all that so it usually only takes one game. Obviously, this next upcoming preseason game will be huge for that but I think we’re good,” he said.

The Lions would like to see Onwuzurike be completely ready and just as dominating for their defensive front early on this season.

Onwuzurike Stats and Highlights

The Lions needed some major 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 he showed well in 2019 when he last played. Teams looking to draft Onwuzurike were likely looking at his ability to be physical and tough in the trenches and develop into a great player in the middle.

In Detroit, Onwuzurike can be expected to fit in well with Michael Brockers and the team’s front at tackle. A look at the tape shows the kind of twitch and athleticism that folks love, which is the same things he showed at times in his first game on the field.

The Lions hope he can develop into a stud up front for the team as many expect. Though it is merely one preseason game, it’s clear Onwuzurike could have all the goods for that and then some.

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