It's been a long time coming for Detroit Lions rookie defensive lineman Josh Paschal.
Detroit's second-round pick in this year's draft finally made his NFL debut Sunday in Dallas after undergoing sports hernia surgery this summer.
Paschal made two tackles, but his impact was felt well beyond the box score. Paschal was disruptive and strung out a number of run plays with good penetration that allowed fellow defenders to make plays behind him.
"It felt good to be out there with my teammates to be able to build off this," Paschal said after Detroit's 24-6 loss to Dallas Sunday. "I've got a lot of work to do. A lot of work in practice to do and I can't wait to get back at it with my brothers this upcoming week."
The Lions liked Paschal's versatility and his ability to play inside and outside when they made him the No. 46 overall pick in this year's draft. He played 56 snaps in his debut, tied for the third most among all Lions defenders Sunday.
His ability to play the closed end position at a high level allowed the Lions some flexibility of movement with No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson and playing him more at the open rush side with Charles Harris out with a groin injury. Hutchinson recorded two sacks and four quarterback pressures against the Cowboys. With Paschal back in the mix, the Lions now have the ability to be pretty versatile upfront with their matchups because Paschal, Hutchinson and John Cominsky can all play inside or outside.
"Yeah, it's good to have him. He's an explosive player, he's got versatility and he's high motor," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of Paschal. "And he's smart. He made a couple rookie errors out there, which we knew he would in his first game, but he also popped. I mean, he flashed in there. It was very encouraging, very encouraging. There's a lot of room for him to grow."
Paschal said the same thing about room to grow, but there was certainly a lot to like from his debut.
"I just have to finish in the second half," Paschal said. "Clean up some technique things. I just have to hold myself accountable and be able to build off this game."
Paschal's NFL debut had to be special for him, and the Lions might just have themselves another playmaker upfront on defense with Paschal playing as well as he did.