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Notes: Dan Campbell encouraged by Levi Onwuzurike’s offseason commitment

After a rocky rookie season, Detroit Lions DT Levi Onwuzurike is putting in the work to ensure his sophomore year yields better results.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Taken 41st overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2021 NFL draft, expectations were high for defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike. He left the University of Washington after his junior year, displaying excellent athleticism and power that NFL scouts and executives love to talk about. He had so much to like that general manager Brad Holmes was initially inclined to trade up for Onwuzurike, before deciding to stay put and allowing events to unfold as they may.

But like with so many other rookies that came before him, not everything went according to plan once Onwuzurike arrived in Detroit.

He initially missed valuable time during the summer offseason program with a lingering back injury, and that same injury caused him to also miss time early on in the 2021 season. At one point, after he had missed most of training camp, the Lions’ front office had discussions of making it a “redshirt” year.

All of these variables contributed to an inconsistent rookie campaign. 35 total tackles and one sack. Not exactly numbers that jump off the page, but considering the context and the adversity Onwuzurike faced, it isn’t shocking that he struggled to find his footing.

“Levi is kinda what he’s been,” Campbell said of the rookie towards the end of last year. “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.”

Despite the slow start to his professional career, it hasn’t diminished the confidence that both Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell have in the young defensive tackle.

“He’s got a lot of stuff that he’s got to work on and he’s aware of it,” Holmes said back in January. “We were having a discussion about that the other day. He’s a very smart guy who’s very physically gifted and he’s self-aware about what he needs to work on headed into this offseason. It’s a big year.”

On Thursday, Campbell met with the media and once again brought up the team’s expectations for Onwuzurike heading into year two.

“Look, as we all know man, you don’t make any greater jumps than you do from (year) one to two,” Campbell said. “That is the greatest jump that most guys make. It doesn’t mean you don’t continue to grow. So we’re expecting him to take a leap forward, you know?

“I know he’s of the right mindset. Even just talking to him when he left. First of all, he wasn’t going to leave. He was going to stick around here for a while, which he did. He’s been working. Went back home for a little bit and he’s come back up. He’s put his money where his mouth is. I know that from a training standpoint. He’s got enough pride and he knows what he needs to do. Everybody learns at a different rate in this league, man. It takes a while. Some guys get it right now and some guys it just, to go and develop and figure things out a little bit. So I expect him to have a better year”.

While they don’t hand out awards for working out hard in April or being around the team facility in the Spring, it’s worth noting that unprompted Campbell noted that Onwuzurike is healthy and working towards being his best self once everything gets rolling later this summer.

“Hell, I saw Levi downstairs and I know Sewell’s running around here, a number of guys,” Campbell added. “Levi, he looks good. He looks good. I know it’s early and we’re only in early April, but you can tell he’s been working. That says something. That says something to you, without saying anything.”

And now, onto the rest of today’s notes:

  • University of Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah will be another prospect heading to Allen Park for a top-30 visit.

  • The Lions' social media account doing its part in getting everyone prepped for The Masters.

  • If you’re looking for a rundown on Campbell’s Thursday meeting with the media, Jeremy Reisman has you covered here.

  • An interesting data point on a possible trend between edge rushers’ pressure rates in college versus as a professional.

  • Our own Mike Payton gives you a mid-week mock draft to help get you through the slow weeks of April.

  • April is National Arab American Heritage Month.

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