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Detroit Lions ‘expect nothing less’ than Levi Onwuzurike messing up offenses

Levi Onwuzurike made some colorful comments on draft night. The Lions expect him to back those up.

NCAA Football: Utah at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Shortly after the Detroit Lions drafted Levi Onwuzurike in the second round, the former Washington defensive tackle made an immediate impression on Detroit media and fans. With a colorful introductory press conference, Onwuzurike set the table for his expectations at the next level.

“I like fucking people up,” Onwuzurike said in a Zoom call that Friday night. “I like to get off the line and just put my helmet or my hands on an offensive lineman and fuck up an offense’s scheme, pretty much. I like pushing them back 2, 3 yards and just making them feel like shit.”

Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn got a kick out of the words, but he told the rookie he better back that up on the field.

“I told him that (when) he made that statement, I better see it when we put the pads on,” Glenn told the media last week.

It’s far too early to know whether Onwuzurike can walk the walk at the NFL level. At this point, the Lions haven’t done any 11-on-11s during Organized Team Activities, and the full pads haven’t even come on yet. However, Glenn is optimistic Onwuzurike can be the disrupter that they believe they drafted.

“With him saying that and what I see in college, I expect nothing less from that player,” Glenn said. “That’s who we’re going to be as a defense. We’re going to be aggressive. We want ass-kickers. We expect to play that way anyway. So it’s nothing new to what my vision is for the Detroit Lions defense. He just solidified what my expectation of him is anyways.”

Onwuzurike could be a key to this Lions’ defense. In the past few seasons, the Lions have lacked an interior presence who could not only rush the passer but could occupy enough blockers to let the linebackers at the next level run free. As Glenn explained, that sort of role is key to Detroit’s future scheme.

“The one concept that we want to make sure we’re able to do is eat up as many gaps as we can up front,” Glenn said. Later continuing, “When you have big men like that, they give a chance to eat up blockers, so that allows the guys at the second level, our linebackers, to go make plays.”

Playing nose tackle for much of his time at Washington, that’s exactly what Onwuzurike did at the college level. In 2018, Washington allowed just 3.5 yards per carry (19th in the nation). The following year, opposing teams rushed for just 3.9 yards per carry (47th).

In Detroit, it won’t all be up to Onwuzurike. The Lions also drafted Alim McNeill to man the true nose tackle position. He’ll also have veterans Nick Williams, Michael Brockers, and Da’Shawn Hand to help show him the ropes and provide rotational play. Still, it’s clear expectations for Onwuzurike are very high from the get go.