Wed, 08 Dec 2021

NOTEBOOK: Rookie Onwuzurike working to become more consistent

Detroit Lions
16 Oct 2021, 19:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash says consistency is something he's harping on with defensive end Levi Onwuzurike at this early stage of the rookie's career.

"You'll see some plays where you go, damn," Wash said of watching Onwuzurike this year. "Then you'll see some plays where you go (laughing) damn. We just have to have consistency down in and down out."

Detroit's second-round pick out of Washington, Onwuzurike missed a large portion of training camp with a back injury, and that was coming off a 2020 college football season in which he opted out due to COVID-19.

He's been steadily working his way back into form and saw 20 reps last week in Minnesota, a season high. He recorded four total tackles, three solo tackles and had some nice rushes.

Onwuzurike didn't play well the week before in Chicago, and Wash said the vets in the room, mainly Michael Brockers and Nick Williams, called him out on it and said he needed to pick it up.

"It's a situation he's feeling the pressure and he's really starting to respond," Wash said. "He's practicing well and playing well and I think his role will be to continue as we go forward here."

The Lions have high expectations for Onwuzurike, and while he still has a ways to go, he is getting better and that's the most important thing.

Onwuzurike is fitting into a role on Detroit's defense behind Brockers and Williams, and he continues to learn, grow and play with better technique. He and fellow rookie Alim McNeill are a big part of Detroit's future upfront, so it will be important for both players to continue to make positive strides.

"You got to have the whole knowledge of the defense and then you'll get out there," Onwuzurike said. "I'm learning behind some great dudes. As I get better and better, just put it out there."

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DAY-TO-DAY FOR DECKER

The Lions have an open roster spot heading into Sunday's matchup at Ford Field against the Bengals after placing Corey Ballentine on IR Friday morning with a hamstring injury. Could the Lions fill it by activating Taylor Decker from IR?

"We're just taking it day-by-day," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Friday. "He's been getting used to it. He went out there Wednesday, kind of had a bigger club if you will, and then we reduced it Thursday and got him some reps. It's hard to say right now. We'll do some more today and then see where we're at. We still have a roster spot with (Corey) Ballentine down, so we'll just kind of play it by ear."

For what it's worth, Decker didn't take part in the open period of practice Friday.

If he returns this week, expect him to slot into left tackle with rookie Penei Sewell moving to right tackle. If Decker doesn't make his season debut Sunday, it should continue to be Sewell at left tackle and Matt Nelson at right tackle.

KICK RETURN DUTIES

Running back Godwin Igwebuike returned kickoffs the first couple weeks of the season, but he was replaced with Ballentine after he struggled to catch a couple kicks.

With Ballentine now on IR, how will the Lions handle kickoff duties going forward?

"Godwin and Tom Kennedy will probably be a couple of guys we may take a shot at and see what they look like," Campbell said.

Kennedy has only been active for Detroit's Week 2 contest in Green Bay when he played just four snaps. He's likely to be active this week with Detroit having just five healthy receivers on the roster after Quintez Cephus was placed on IR this week.

Detroit currently ranks 22nd in the NFL in kickoff returns, averaging 20.3 yards per return.

SEWELL HUMBLED

After a college career where he didn't allow a single sack and a terrific start to his NFL rookie season, Lions tackle Penei Sewell has given up a few sacks the last couple weeks. He said Friday it's been a humbling experience for him.

"I think it's humbling, to be honest," Sewell said. "When you're young and you're faced with so much success and everybody telling you this and that, then you get hit by a wall, it's humbling, and there's no other way I want to take it. I'm learning each and every way possible."

Sewell said he's just got to be a little more patient and clean up some small technique issues as defenders have tried to attack him more on the edges the last couple weeks. He said he gets in trouble when he's too aggressive as a blocker.

Sometimes it takes a little adversity to take the next step.

EXTRA POINTS

Lions rookie cornerback Jerry Jacobs, fresh off his first career start last week vs. Minnesota, said Friday he expects to follow around fellow rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase some on Sunday and match up with him quite a bit. Jared Goff is 10-2 in his career against fellow quarterbacks drafted No. 1 overall, per NFL Research.

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