The Lions selected defensive tackles Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill in this year's NFL Draft in the second and third round, respectively. Both guys are expected to play key roles and make an immediate impact on the interior of Detroit's defensive front along with veteran Michael Brockers, who the team traded for this offseason.
Onwuzurike and McNeill got a chance to line up together for the first time in rookie minicamp this past weekend, and have quickly begun to form a bond based on mutual respect for each other's game.
"I love the dude as a person. Real good guy," Onwuzurike said of McNeill. "Football-wise, I think he's just going to wreck shop. We were just hitting the bags (Sunday) and this dude was almost tearing the bag off the post."
McNeill certainly has the strength and build of a stout defensive tackle (6-2, 317), but he's super athletic for his size as well. A former high school running back and star outfielder in baseball, McNeill moves really well for a man his size. He showed off some of that quickness and burst off the ball in Sunday's rookie minicamp practice open to the media. He notched 17.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 30 career games at NC State and had a career high 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2019.
McNeill said it didn't take long for Onwuzurike to make an impression on him either.
"Definitely a dominant guy," he said of Onwuzurike. "Gets off the ball, good finesse. I think when we play beside each other we're going to be able to complement each other a lot and be able to make a lot of plays and wreak havoc in the backfield."
Onwuzurike ran the 40 in 4.85 seconds and had a 30-inch vertical at 6-foot-3 and 293 pounds at his pro day this offseason. He was dominant at the Senior Bowl, and played every position along the defensive line in college at Washington.
Last season, the Lions ranked 26th in sacks with just 24. Of those, only four came from the defensive tackle position. Detroit was 28th against the run, allowing on average 134.9 yards on the ground per game.
Onwuzurike and McNeill were brought in to help in both areas with their unique blend of size, athleticism and burst off the line of scrimmage.
"I think we're going to do some damage," Onwuzurike said. "We're going to push guys back. We're going to mess up offensive schemes. It'll be a great duo."