As the Detroit Lions look back on their 2021 rookie class, they will likely feel that the group laid a solid foundation for the future and was perhaps the class that helped change things permanently.
At the end of the season, the class continues to receive awards for what they were able to do on the field early in their careers. Not only have some starred on the field, but several others have been recognized for their work by outside publications.
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Two Detroit rookies received one of the ultimate forms of post-season praise when they were named to the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie Team. The Lions scored one player on each team from each side of the ball. On offense, tackle Penei Sewell was named last season’s top rookie tackle, and on defense, tackle Alim McNeill was singled out from the front.
As explained in writer Ben Linsey’s play, Sewell’s work wasn’t always elitist, and he recovered from a rocky start to settle in while ending up playing the right tackle for the Lions. Buoyed by this, he would end the rookie season as one of the top six tackles in football. As Linsey wrote, Sewell should only get better as he adjusts to the right side.
McNeill cracked the team as a rookie with the second-highest rated PFF and was lauded by Linsey and the side for his superior speed and power in the run game. As he wrote, there’s plenty to get excited about in 2022 watching McNeill play his first season in the league.
With McNeill and Sewell, the Lions have a couple of building blocks on both lines that are important and meaningful to the future of the team.
To say the 2021-22 season was a strong start for Sewell and his league career is more than an understatement. The offensive tackle excelled wherever he played, and on several occasions managed to draw attention from the likes of Pro Football Focus. Sewell was one of the top-rated tackles in the league as a rookie and routinely opened eyes to his ability to keep anyone playing quarterback for the Lions and help the game in progress thrive. Sewell didn’t crack the Pro Bowl for his rookie work, but the fact that he was stable on the field should be credit enough for the Lions to move forward. Overall, Sewell started 16 games for the Lions and was a mainstay for the team. Perhaps Sewell’s defining moment is when he refused to retire in an Aaron Donald game:
While he seemed unhappy with the results, the Lions should be happy with what Sewell has achieved and also love the fact that the rookie is hungry to keep building on the numbers, which by everyone else’s calculations are a decent one start are.
McNeill is entering his first season in the NFL, bringing the production with him to the big leagues. While playing for NC State, McNeill accumulated 77 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 5 passes defended. He also scored 1 touchdown in his career. Obviously, those are the sort of numbers that suggest a man who can move and make a lot of plays along a front, which is exactly what he’ll do with the Lions and their very needy line of defense no matter what role he plays.
Here’s a look at some highlights from McNeill taking care of it:
The Lions saw some of that athleticism shine through from the clips to help McNeill quickly become a star for the team. McNeill has 39 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 pass defense in 17 games played this season. It was a good start for the youngster’s career.
For a third-round pick, it’s an honor to accompany Sewell with this illustrious acknowledgment of his game.
CONTINUE READING: Penei Sewell offers blunt assessment of solid rookie year