Detroit will be without its second-year defensive lineman for at least four games after placing Levi Onwuzurike on injured reserve today, according to a tweet from the team’s Twitter account. Onwuzurike gave the Lions versatility on the defensive line last year, taking snaps at end and on the interior.
Onwuzurike was drafted in the second-round last year despite back troubles that plagued him in college. The back issues have persisted through his rookie season to now. They caused him to miss Detroit’s entire rookie training camp, causing him to seek outside opinions before returning to the team.
The former Washington Huskies lineman was able to appear in 16 games last year as a rookie, but failed to make a lasting impression. Onwuzurike did record 35 total tackles, but was only able to manage 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, one quarterback hit, and two passes defensed, numbers the Lions hoped he would be able to improve on in his sophomore season.
Onwuzurike added strength in the offseason and showed up for camp ready to roll into Year 2. Unfortunately, he was unable to make it through a single padded practice before yet another back ailment sidelined the 24-year-old. He hasn’t been able to practice since.
Detroit hoped it would be able to keep Onwuzurike off of injured reserve so that he could still attend practice. Some on the staff credited his rookie struggles with the amount of time he was forced to be away from the team leading up to the season. If he stayed off IR, he’d be able to practice on days when medical staff cleared him to do so. Instead, he’ll be handcuffed by the restrictions of the IR.
He joins Romeo Okwara and rookie Josh Paschal as defensive linemen that are too injured to play in the season opener. The Lions will start Alim McNeill and Michael Brockers in the middle and Charles Harris and rookie first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson at the end spots. Without Onwuzurike, Okwara, and Paschal, the starters will be relieved by Austin Bryant, Isaiah Buggs, John Cominsky, Julian Okwara, Benito Jones, and undrafted rookie Demetrius Taylor.