Lions’ Alim McNeill Puts Head Coach Dan Campbell on Notice: ‘I Hope It’s Real’

As the Detroit Lions roster stands at the end of minicamp, they do not have a fullback for the first time since Dan Campbell became head coach in 2021. But that doesn’t mean the Lions won’t use a formation with a fullback at certain times in 2024. In fact, Campbell said in front of the media that defensive lineman Alim McNeill could be a potential solution at fullback.

McNeill suggested that he wasn’t sure if Campbell was truly being serious. But the 315-pound defensive tackle also made it clear to reporters that he’s ready for an opportunity on offense.

“I heard him talk about with the media,” McNeill said on June 6 about his potential to play fullback. “That’s just coach Campbell being coach Campbell. Honestly, just having fun.

“I hope it’s real, honestly, but I have no clue.”

McNeill reminded reporters that he played running back, not defensive line, in high school.

“I still got that,” McNeill said. “I’ll never lose that. But yeah, nah, I hope it’s real, but we’ll see.”

Alim McNeill Advocating to Play Fullback

If McNeill lines up in Detroit’s backfield this season, it will probably remind some fans of William “Refrigerator” Perry. The Chicago Bears defensive tackle received snaps in the offensive backfield during his career and scored two touchdowns in 1985.

Reporters referenced Perry to McNeill on June 6. McNeill said if given the opportunity, he would want to be even better than Perry on offense.

“I feel like I have to do a little bit better than that. I have to catch a couple passes, [do a little bit] of everything out there,” said McNeill.

Perry also caught a 4-yard touchdown in 1985.

The fact the Lions could still want to use a fullback but don’t have one on the roster could give McNeill the same opportunity “The Fridge” did almost 40 years ago.

“We like a fullback, if it makes sense and it’s somebody we know can help us at that position and can dictate to the defense,” Campbell said. “That’s really what you’re trying to do. It kind of forces the defense into a look that you want, usually. But we’re not going to force it either.”

Campbell argued that more than likely, they will use a tight end at fullback if they don’t sign one before the season.

Veteran Jason Cabinda largely served as Detroit’s fullback from 2021-23. But last season, he only dressed for four games.

Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez played 20 snaps on offense, mostly at fullback, as well last year. Rodriguez caught 1 pass for 6 yards.

Campbell Has Higher Expectations for McNeill in 2024

It’s obvious Campbell isn’t against thinking outside the box for a fullback. But his main objective for McNeill is for him to make a leap on defense.

“Mac can do it. It’s just a matter of, do you want to do that?” Campbell said. “He can do it. It’s just, ‘All right, how many plays he just played on this last drive, was this a 10-play drive? Does he got his energy back to run out there at fullback?’

“We’ve talked about it for a while, so you never know, we can throw him in there.”

Being better on defense is clearly McNeill’s main focus as well. He told reporters he expects “more out of” himself this season, especially playing next to free agent signee D.J. Reader.

Last season, McNeill experienced a bit of a breakout season with a career-high 5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits. He recorded those marks in 13 contests.

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