The shelf life of an NFL football player is a lot like having a container of guacamole sitting in your refrigerator. It doesn’t last long before anyone wants to throw it out.
Such was the case for former University of Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike, who hailed as a godsend a year ago when he was taken by the Detroit Lions in the second round of the NFL Draft and then termed a disappointment at the end of the season by outside voices. General Chat Chat Lounge
They expected so much more than 35 tackles, a lone sack and a solitary quarterback hit over 16 games from a Northwest who boldly promised on draft night that he would be a Lions’ disruptor and had the best defensive tackle available in the draft. General Chat Chat Lounge
While he played more than a full season, Onwuzurike was never a starter as a rookie. He finished with a 43.2 PFF grade, which ranked him 119th out of 131 NFL defensive tackles who played at least 250 snaps.
The Lions recently revealed he was never physically at full strength throughout his first season in the Motor City.
“I know he played, he didn’t miss games really for the most part, but he wasn’t healthy,” Lions defensive-line coach Todd Wash told DetroitLions.com. “He was battling through it.”
Onwuzurike suffered a back injury in training camp and then missed the season opener with a hip injury. He played on, just not up to the standards for the one-time All-Pac-12 defensive tackle.
Following last week’s draft, expectations are taken for a big leap for Onwuzurike and the rest of the Detroit defense after the franchise went for added support by edge defenders Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal in the first and second rounds, respectively.
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The Lions expect the 6-foot-3, 295-pound Onwuzurike to benefit as much as anyone from the new faces coming in.
“I think we’re going to see the power and explosiveness we see in him,” Wash said. “He’s been here every day and he’s looking jacked. I’m kind of excited about that one. “
Onwuzurike received a definite wake-up from last season’s trying experience. He had opted out of the Huskies’ 2020 season and went on for almost two full years without playing, leaving him relatively rusty.
The injuries had their impact. Plus the NFL was closer than he envisioned, a definite step up from the college game. The 41st overall pick from the 2021 draft had to pay some dues.
“Levi is kind of what he was,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said last season. “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. So there’s just some inexperience there that he’s still. having to get over bumps in the road – which he will. “
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