Why did the Detroit Lions not invest heavily in outside help at the defensive tackle position this offseason? The answer: Alim McNeill.
Despite the availability of several prominent defensive tackles in free agency, Brad Holmes and the front office remained unmoved. The Lions brass even had the chance to draft Georgia standout Jalen Carter, but they passed on it, deciding instead to invest in Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta.
McNeill, the third-year defensive tackle from North Carolina State, is primed for an explosive season. Standing at 6-2, 305 lbs., he’s spent the offseason sculpting both his body and his mind for the challenges ahead. “Last time I was at the podium I was about 327. I’m 305 now, so I feel a lot better. A lot lighter and faster on the field. And I still have the same strength so I feel really good,” McNeill said about his transformation following day 2 of training camp.
McNeill’s Offseason: Fueled by Consistency and Tenacity
McNeill’s renewed physique and spirit haven’t gone unnoticed. Lions Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow, who faces him daily in practice, said after day 3 of training camp:
That’s my guy, man. I announced his draft pick. Me and him kind of have a special bond. He works his tail off, man. Obviously, he lost the weight, but just how he’s attacking everything. In the weight room, pre-hab, getting ready, everything. He’s a pro. You can tell he’s hungry this year. He’s twitched up right now.
In the 2022 season, McNeill started all 17 games. His impressive stats, including 41 total tackles, seven quarterback hits, six tackles for loss, and 1.0 sacks, show his potential for greatness. His dominance against the New York Giants in week 11 demonstrated his potential to be elite, as he became Detroit’s first interior lineman to achieve a game with three tackles for loss and 1.0 sack since 2015. McNeill was a relentless force in the middle for the Lions, dominating the run game and constantly pressuring quarterback Daniel Jones.
McNeill’s Mission for the 2023 Season: Consistency
Focused and ready, McNeill is back in Allen Park for training camp, determined to start the season strong. “I feel like I tried to come in as prepared as possible, so I can just come out and jump on the field and be ready to go,” he shared.
His personal goal for 2023 is clear: Consistency. “I just want to show I can be consistent, every play, every down. It’s just as simple as that. I want to be more consistent on the field,” he explained, adding, “Last year was up and down for me… this year I’m looking to be able to be who I want to be on the field, and be able to show everybody, you know, what I can really do.”
Lions’ Defensive Turnaround: A Relentless Mentality
Alim McNeill is a cornerstone of a Lions defense poised for a massive leap this season. He underscores their attitude of relentless aggression and violence, a mentality that new defensive line coach John Scott Jr. instills daily. Regarding the team mentality, McNeill said:
We want to be able to create an identity for ourselves… we just want to be able to put on a performance every Sunday, ya know, this is who we are we’re comin’ to play every Sunday.
Drawing inspiration from the legendary ‘Monsters of the Midway,’ ‘The Steel Curtain,’ and ‘The Killer B’s,’ McNeill is on a mission to help the Lions make a name for themselves on the national stage. If Alim McNeill delivers on his potential, the Detroit Lions will roar in the 2023 season.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK