The Detroit Lions appeared to have found a pair of elite pass rushers in the 2022 draft class. Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston were the top two Lions defenders in sacks during their rookie seasons.
But Detroit’s original plan wasn’t to have Hutchinson and Houston be their future book-end pass rushers. The Lions intended that to be Hutchinson and 2022 second-rounder Josh Paschal.
But Paschal missed the first five games of the 2022 season because of a sports hernia. When he returned to the field, he didn’t adapt quickly to the NFL level. Paschal finished his rookie season with 16 combined tackles and 2 sacks.
When speaking to the media on August 2, though, Paschal talked about how he expects a lot more from himself during his second season.
“There definitely is,” Paschal said when asked if there’s an urgency to prove himself. “I know what I’m capable of. I knew that last year, but now, it’s time to prove it.”
Josh Paschal Enters 2023 NFL Training Camp Healthy
There’s definitely one big thing working in Paschal’s favor that will help him have a much better 2023 season — he’s healthy.
This offseason, Paschal has been healthy. According to the defensive end, that’s made a big difference.
“I feel completely different,” Paschal told reporters on August 2. “I just feel more prepared, just because last year, coming in with the injury, I didn’t have the camp for preparation and now I do.
“And, I feel like it’s preparing me for the season. Of course, I have to get better each and every day. But, it definitely is helping.”
Paschal never posted more than 5 sacks during any of his five seasons at Kentucky. But he did have 15 tackles for loss as a senior in 2021.
Lions Looking for a Third Pass-Rushing Option
Generally, the really dangerous NFL defenses have three or more strong pass rushers.
Coming into the 2023 season, the Lions appear to have two defenders that opposing defenses have to be concerned about blocking in passing situations. Hutchinson led the team with 9.5 sacks while Houston recorded 8 sacks in 2022. Incredibly, Houston had his 8 sacks in just seven games.
The Lions have a couple veterans such as John Cominsky, Charles Harris or Julian Okwara who could become the team’s third-best pass rushing option. But through the beginning of training camp, Paschal is in the running for that role too.
The second-year edge rusher explained to reporters how he believes he fits in with the Lions defense.
“I think I add that bigger end,” Paschal said. “The guy that he has specific power rushes, but he’s also violent enough to go inside, to play against the run and the pass. Also, to set edges on the outside.”
Hutchinson and Houston combined to record 17.5 sacks last season, which was about 45% of Detroit’s 39 sacks during 2022.
Both Hutchinson and Houston are expected to get to the quarterback more this fall, as they make second-year leaps. But to get to a championship level on defense, the Lions would prefer to see the percentage of the team’s overall sacks from the top pair of edge rushers drop.
Paschal making a second-year leap as well would certainly help take some pressure off Hutchinson and Houston.