Lions envision big leap for Levi Onwuzurike in his second season

Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports /

His rookie season was a disappointment, but the Lions are already seeing enough to expect a big leap from Levi Onwuzurike this year.

In the 2021 draft, the Detroit Lions used their second and third-round picks on young defensive lineman. Ups and downs naturally came for Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill, but it was Onwuzurike that head coach Dan Campbell called out a little when the season ended.

“Levi is kinda what he’s been. He’s been up and down. He flashed. Man, he shows out, and the next play, it’s a learning experience. Next play, he shows out. Next play, it’s a learning experience,” Campbell explained “So there’s just some inexperience there that he’s still having to get over bumps in the road — which he will.”

Onwuzurike seems to have taken Campbell’s words to heart, as he has been around the team facility for much of the offseason. Via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, the head coach has noticed.

“He looks good,” Campbell said. “I know it’s early and we’re only in early April, but you can tell he’s been working. That says something. That says something to you, without saying anything.”

Dan Campbell expects Levi Onwuzurike to make big leap in his second season

Onwuzurike’s rookie season was set off-course by an offeason back injury, and he never really got on track. He posted 35 total tackles over 16 games, while playing 396 snaps. But he was not very impactful, especially as a pass rusher as Pro Football Focus credited him with just three quarterback pressures on 184 pass rush snaps.

Via Rogers, Campbell elaborated on Onwuzurike.

“As we all know, you don’t make any greater jumps than you do from (year) one to two,” “That is the greatest jump that most guys make. …So we’re expecting him to take a leap forward, you know? I know he’s of the right mindset.

“…He’s put his money where his mouth is. I know that from a training standpoint, he’s got enough pride and he knows what he needs to do. Everybody learns at a different rate in this league, man.”

In particular with veteran Nick Williams a free agent and surely not coming back, Onwuzurike should have an opportunity to play more in 2022 than he did as a rookie. With that and the work he’s putting in to get better this offseason, he’s trying to meet the Lions expectation he’ll start justifying his status as a top-50 pick who at times was in the 2021 first-round conversation.

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