Arrow pointing up on Detroit Lions’ Levi Onwuzurike despite disappointing season

Penei Sewell has been everything the Detroit Lions hoped for in a top-10 pick, and Amon-Ra St. Brown has exceeded expectations as one of the best rookie receivers in the 2021 draft.

Alim McNeill is coming off his best game of the season at nose tackle, and Ifeatu Melifonwu and Jermar Jefferson have seen limited playing time for different reasons.

The one Lions rookie who has underperformed his draft status while playing regular minutes this season is second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike, though Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash said nothing that’s happened on the field has dimmed his hopes for Onwuzurike’s future.

[ Lions can’t overreact: Aidan Hutchinson still worth No. 1 pick after Georgia game ]

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph passes as Detroit Lions defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike rushes during the first quarter at Heinz Field, Nov. 14, 2021.

“I know everybody’s down on Levi, but we’re not,” Wash said Wednesday. “I think he’s had some major flash plays, and like we were saying, he’s had some not-so-good plays. But I think the arrow was definitely up on Levi.”

The 41st overall pick of last April’s draft, Onwuzurike has been a regular part of the Lions’ defensive line rotation, albeit without the type of impact general manager Brad Holmes envisioned when he tried to trade up for Onwuzurike in the first round.

Onwuzurike missed most of training camp with a back injury that Wash said has flared up at times during the season, and has one sack, one quarterback hit and two tackles for loss in 15 games.

Lions coach Dan Campbell was critical of Onwuzurike’s play in last week’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, when he regularly appeared to get pushed out of his gap as the Seahawks ran for 265 yards.

Wash said his challenge to Onwuzurike this offseason will be to take better care of his body and return a more consistent player in Year 2.

“The biggest thing is we need to continue to improve the lower-body strength and the ability to bend his knees and sink…


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