Eyeing a third year breakout, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill changed his offseason routine-diet, etc. Then he went out and had had said breakout, with five sacks, 33 quarterback pressures and high-end grades from Pro Football Focus as a pass rusher and a run defender through 12 games. It has been Aidan Hutchinson, him and everyone else in terms of who's gotten it done along the Lions' defensive line.
But McNeill has been out since suffering a knee injury during the Week 13 game against the New Orleans Saints. He was put on IR, which of course meant a minimum stint of four games missed.
The Lions have clearly missed McNeill, relying heavily on Isaiah Buggs and Benito Jones in his absence. It seems he avoided a major injury, reported as a sprain and not necessarily a season-ender. Having him back for the playoffs would obviously be ideal.
Alim McNeill injury update: Will the Lions' stud defensive tackle play again this season?
As he issued some injury updates on Friday, Lions head coach Dan Campbell had one on McNeill (via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News).
"The best I can tell you is, yeah, we are optimistic and he is healing," Campbell said. "He’s making progress. There’s nothing discouraging about it. I can’t give you the timeline, but yes, I absolutely feel good about getting him back before this is all said and done. He’s doing good."
McNeill is eligible to return for the regular season finale against the Vikings. The Lions would surely like to get him some game action then if possible, for sheer re-acclimation reasons before the playoffs (much like James Houston, if he's able to return). But that game also may not matter at all for the Lions in terms of playoff seed. So there will be a balance to strike there, if McNeill is ready to go.
Not that Campbell would say otherwise, but there is optimism McNeill will return this season. Just as there has been from the time he was injured, and it wasn't deemed to be a torn ACL or something similarly significant. So Friday's update was basically a fresh confirmation that McNeill could play again this season, which is better than negative news.