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McNeill looks forward to playing alongside Reader

New Lions defensive lineman DJ Reader might not be ready for the start of training camp as he continues to rehab a quad injury. Reader said in March he expects to be ready by the start of the regular season.

Whenever Reader joins Alim McNeill in the center of Detroit's defensive line, McNeill used a single word to describe the potential of that duo: Destruction.

"In my head it just looks like destruction, to me, honestly," McNeill said last week at the conclusion of Detroit's mandatory minicamp. "There's no other way I can see it. Every time I close my eyes and visualize it, I just see destruction, honestly."

McNeill, who is coming off his best season as a professional in 2024 with career highs in sacks (5.0), tackles for loss (6) and quarterback hits (10), despite playing in 13 games due to a knee injury suffered late in the season, couldn't hold back his excitement about playing alongside an experienced veteran like Reader with a track record of success in this league.

"I've been watching DJ since I was younger, it's crazy I play with him now," McNeill said. "I've been watching DJ for a long time now, him being from Greensboro, watched him through Clemson and Houston, and everywhere, so it's wild. But I see destruction."

McNeil finished last season with an 86.8 grade by Pro Football Focus, good for eighth among all NFL defensive tackles. He said he expects even more from himself in 2024 and he certainly stands to benefit from potentially more one-on-one matchups in this season with teams having to decide how they handle a defensive tackle duo that both finished in the Top 10 in run defense by PFF last season and both have ability to rush the passer. Reader has produced at least 32 pressures in each of the last three seasons.

"Mac has got so much ability, and I think that he's one of those that in the way that he is built, and the nimbleness and athleticism, and power that he has for the way that he is, for the way that he's built – you don't see that every day," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said.

"We still feel like there is more in there. He really took a big step last year, we feel like there's more in there. I know that's one of the things that (Lions defensive line coach)) Terrell (Williams) noticed right when he came here – our D-line coach, like 'Man this guy,' – he said, 'I've always liked Alim McNeill, but I see, there's more to this guy. We can get more out of him.'

"That's a good thing. Some of that is by fundamentals, and technique, and just continuing to push. But Mac is one of those guys – I think this can go up another step."

This is a big season for McNeill as he's in the final year of his rookie contract. He said he didn't know if the Lions have approached him about an extension or not. He's asked his agent to keep those conversations to himself so he could just focus on what he has to get done on the field.

McNeill said all the contract stuff will work itself out in the end and all he's thinking about right now is how he can help this Detroit Lions football team and the city of Detroit secure the ultimate prize in February.

"Perfect season, we won the Super Bowl, we're celebrating here in Detroit, in the city, that's what I see when I close my eyes and when I go to work out when I go run, when I'm at practice working on different moves, that's what we all think about," he said. "That's what I'm thinking about. And everybody has the same attitude here. We just want to win. Whatever we can do to win."

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