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Alim McNeill down over 20 pounds, says he’s still just as strong

Detroit Lions DT Alim McNeill has transformed his body and is ready to be a more consistent player .

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the year, we learned that third-year defensive tackle Alim McNeill cut 13 percent of body fat this offseason in an effort to get quicker and improve his pass rush. On Monday, McNeill gave some more details on his physical transformation since last season.

“Last time I was at a podium, I was at about 327 (pounds). I’m 305 now,” McNeill said. “I feel a lot better. A lot lighter and faster on the field. And I still have the same strength, so I feel really good.”

Last year, McNeill—the Detroit Lions’ third-round pick in 2021—made the transition to play the three-tech position, which requires more short-area quickness compared to the physical, space-eating duties of the nose tackle position. Many were predicting a breakout season for McNeill, but by the player’s own admission, there were far too many inconsistencies in his play throughout the year.

“Last year was up and down for me,” McNeill said. “I didn’t personally like it. But I didn’t dislike it. This year, I’m looking to be able to be who I want to be on the field. And be able to show everybody what I can really do.”

Things started to look better toward the end of the season. McNeill had a breakout game against the Giants in Week 11, recording 10 quarterback pressures, four “stops” and a sack, per PFF. But McNeill knows every year is a new year, and there is no guaranteed carry-over.

With the offseason additions, though, he does sense that this defense could be very different than the one that allowed the fifth-most points in the league last year.

“(I) feel like our mentality is completely different,” McNeill said. “We want to be able to create an identity for ourselves, just like a lot of defenses in the past have done in the league—they have nicknames, and stuff like that. We just want to be able to put on a performance every Sunday of, ‘this is who we are.’ We’re coming to play every Sunday.”

McNeill’s growth isn’t just as a pass rusher. Earlier this offseason, coach Dan Campbell noted how he’s also becoming more of a leader in the locker room now that he’s entering Year 3 of his career.

“Mac’s a leader for us now because he understands,” Campbell said. “He knows what it’s supposed to look like. He was around a guy like (Michael) Brockers who was in that room, and that’s the value of it. Because I see Mac very much as a leader Now he’s not going to be an ‘open his mouth rah-rah’ guy, but he leads by example. He leads by the way—his approach and what he does and that is what you want.”

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