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Alim McNeill cut 13% body fat to improve as a pass rusher in 2023

Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill changed his diet and lifestyle for one particular goal: become a dominant pass rusher.

Detroit Lions v New York Giants Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Alim McNeill took a serious approach to this offseason. After some inconsistent play over the first two years of his career, the Detroit Lions defensive tackle took it upon himself to transform his body. With the help of some weekly yoga and a red meatless diet with better portion control, McNeill is noticeably leaner.

“I feel so much better,” McNeill said last month. “A lot more lean, a lot more flexible, can bend a lot better now.”

At the time, McNeill said he was chasing greatness. But on a podcast with team reporter Tim Twentyman, the third-year defensive tackle revealed that he had a more specific goal in mind when transforming his living style: improving his pass rush.

“This is what the transformation was for, if I’m really being honest with you, is to be able to rush that passer like I want to,” McNeill said. “That’s really what the transformation was for. Just so I could be a better football player for the Lions, be able to do everything I need to do.”

McNeill has just 3.0 sacks to his name through two seasons, but he has shown flashes of being able to rush the passer in the past. Against the Giants last year, he set the PFF record for most quarterback pressures in a game (10) by a defender over 320 pounds.

And before you write this story off as another cliché “greatest shape of my life” offseason story, this is no ordinary change. Per McNeil, his body fat percentage is down a whopping 13 percent. Even so, he still intends to play around the 325-pound mark he played at last year, just with a lot more muscle and flexibility.

Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has certainly noticed not just a physical change in McNeill, but a mental one, too.

“You’ve seen his body, also, the way he’s transformed himself, as far as his weight as far, as his habits, the way he studies,” Glenn said last week. “So, to me, I like the fact that he was able to play nose and three. I think we’ll continue to do that. He’s serious about football, man. Like this guy is serious about how he is going to go out there. He’s serious about how he wants to be perceived by everybody also. So, I just look forward to seeing how he is going to operate throughout the season, alright. This is a damn good player for us and we’re looking forward to seeing how he continues to improve.”

Also helping McNeill’s case is an improved defensive roster. With the many additions to the secondary—including Cameron Sutton, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley—the defensive front is likely to get more time to get home.

“We added straight dogs back there,” McNeill said. “And not even just talking about their game, their mentality, their attitude on the field has changed us so much as a defense, because I’m listening to C.J. and Cam and them back there. High energy and just talking trash or whatever it is, and it just gets me going. So not even football wise they’re getting me going, but it’s going to be crazy this season, especially with those guys locking people up like that.”

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