Most notably, after recording no more than two sacks in a single season in his first two years as a pro, he’s already amassed a career-best five sacks through 10 games in 2023. He’s also produced a career-high nine quarterback hits, a forced fumble and a single pass defensed, en route to earning an 87.6 overall mark from Pro Football Focus.
This career-best campaign from McNeill comes on the heels of the third-year defensive lineman having undergone a physical transformation this past offseason. The N.C. State product shed over 20 pounds, and eliminated 13 percent body fat in the process.
“I feel like I’ve improved as a player. I just feel like my offseason results are starting to show,” McNeill said of his progression from the 2022 season to this year. “But, I feel like I’ve just improved as a team player, the best way I can, doing my job to the best of my ability. But, added some rush in there, and playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage was the goal coming into this year. I’ve been able to do that a couple times, but other than that, I feel like I’ve just improved as a D-lineman and a team player.”
McNeill finished with a sack, two QB hits and a tackle for loss on Sunday against Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears. With his five sacks on the year, he’s the first Lions interior defensive lineman with at least that many sacks in a season since Ndamukong Suh achieved the feat in 2014.
“He’s having a really, really good season,” Detroit head coach Dan Campbell said of McNeill during his media session Monday. “I thought he really showed up last night. You know, he played physical. I thought he won his one-on-ones. Look, he, Benito (Jones), (Quinton) Bohanna yesterday, they’re taking on, they do all that dirty work in there in the run game. It all starts with them. And so, you talk about doing the stuff that doesn’t really get noticed all the time.
“He’s winning these one-on-ones right now, with violence, and he’s able to shed the block. And, he really, he’s giving us some interior rush right now. And, that’s all technique, effort. And you know, he’s maximizing his ability right now. So, he is a vital part of what we are and what we can be on defense. You know, he’s playing at a high level.”
McNeill has helped key the Lions’ strong performance against the run thus far this season. With the presence of the 6-foot-2, 315-pound lineman along the interior of the defensive line, Detroit has permitted the fifth-fewest rushing yards through the first 11 weeks of the season (895 yards).
Despite the fast start to the season, McNeill is far from satisfied.
“Sitting at 8-2 feels good, but we’re just 8-2,” he said. “It doesn’t end today. So, we have a lot more work we’ve got to do, a lot more games to win. So, sitting at 8-2 does feel good, a lot more confidence going into the weeks and stuff like that. But, yeah, it feels good, but we haven’t done much yet.”