Why Lions Need Josh Paschal to Emerge in 2024

Can Paschal be X-factor for Lions defense?
Detroit Lions defensive end Josh Paschal.
Detroit Lions defensive end Josh Paschal. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
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The Detroit Lions need to find production within their defensive line, a unit that struggled to rush the passer in 2023.

Outside of Aidan Hutchinson, the Lions had just one of their player reach five sacks on the year in defensive tackle Alim McNeill. Detroit as a whole ranked near the bottom of the league in sacks.

Hutchinson led the league in pressures and finished with 11.5 sacks, upping his career total to 21.0 in two NFL seasons. He was often the target of opposing double teams and consistently garnered extra attention from opposing offensive lines.

The Lions will need someone to step up in 2024 to take the eyes off Hutchinson in certain situations. Detroit has multiple options, and one of the more intriguing choices is third-year Kentucky product Josh Paschal.

Though injuries have slowed Paschal at points over his first two seasons, he has yet to find his footing as a pass-rush contributor. Last year, he had just 13 pressures on 258 pass-rush snaps in the regular season according to Pro Football Focus.

In 22 career games, he has just three career sacks. While at Kentucky, he was able to total 13.5 career sacks over parts of five seasons. While rushing the passer has never been the defining trait of his skill set, he has room to grow and there's potential in this area for him to tap into.

The Lions also have other options on the defensive line, including veteran newcomer Marcus Davenport. Formerly of the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, Davenport has 23.5 sacks over six NFL seasons but has yet to play a full campaign.

If Davenport can remain healthy, he has the ability to be a major contributor in Detroit's pass-rush. He's listed on the roster as an outside linebacker, which means the Lions will likely utilize him in a SAM linebacker-type of role.

Paschal, meanwhile, seems more destined for a big end type of role opposite Hutchinson. He also did show encouraging progress during the postseason with six total pressures in three games.

As a rookie, his development was slowed by a groin injury. Now, in his second full offseason, Paschal was getting first team reps with Davenport out for OTAs and mandatory minicamp. These reps could set him up to succeed moving forward.

If Paschal can take a third-year jump that others, including McNeill, Derrick Barnes and Ifeatu Melifonwu, have taken in the Holmes era, it will be a massive win for the Lions' defense and could have a huge impact on the team's success.

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Christian Booher


Sports journalist who has covered the Detroit Lions the past three NFL seasons. Christian brings expert analysis, insights and an ability to fairly assess how the team is performing in a tough NFC North division.