2023 Detroit Lions Player Preview: Don’t forget Josh Paschal

As we continue our 2023 Detroit Lions player profiles of second-year players, one that doesn’t get talked about much is defensive lineman Josh Paschal. It’s weird how quick we are to forget about Paschal considering he was a second round pick last year, but I guess that’s what happens when his rookie season is overshadowed by two other defensive line rookies in Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston.

But there are several reasons to believe Paschal could make a much bigger impact in 2023 — and perhaps more importantly — assume a foundational role in 2024.

Previous List Previews: Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams

Josh Paschal

Expectations heading into 2022

As a second-round pick, expectations were high that Paschal could lift a defensive line that needed it. Paschal was an inspirational story in college, a hard worker and someone capable of being a versatile defender at the next level.

Unfortunately, Paschal dealt with an injury from college and ended up having sports hernia surgery after OTAs last year. He missed all of training camp and started the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He would not return to practice until the first week of October. Two weeks later, he would be on the active roster.

Actual role in 2022

10 matches (4 starts): 293 snaps played (25.8% of defensive snaps)
Statistics: 16 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 15 pressures (per PFF)
PFF overall grade: 55.1 (112th out of 134 EDGE defenders with at least 200 snaps)

Despite missing all of training camp and nearly the first two months of the season, Paschal was thrown right into things. With both Julian and Romeo Okwara recovering from injuries and Charles Harris missing most of the year, Paschal’s first NFL appearance was also his first NFL start. In fact, he started his first four games, despite missing all of those offseason practices, and he had a full workload — playing at least 55 defensive snaps in each of his first three games before suffering his own knee injury .

After missing the next two games, Paschal returned to a much more manageable role on defense. For the last six games, Paschal averaged just 16.3 snaps per game. competition. His biggest contribution came in Week 17 against the Bears, where he played 25 snaps and logged the only two sacks of his rookie season.

His overall performance was just okay — as you’d expect from a rookie who missed all of training camp and was thrown into the fire. Some of his issues from college — particularly his slow reaction time off the snap — were still evident. Just look at the sack above.

Still, Paschal looks back on 2022 as an extremely valuable experience. Not only did he get his feet wet at the NFL competitive level, but he also learned the value of perseverance through injury.

“I learned a lot last year, just about the pace of the game, the change in the game from college to the NFL,” Paschal said this spring. “Just getting wet last year and being able to go out there (and) start some games. But I’m thankful for the full experience last year of coming to the league. I was hurt, able to rehab and come back. It learned me a lot about patience, endurance and all the things you need.”

Outlook for 2023

Heading into his second season, Paschal should be more prepared when the regular season hits. He has been able to participate fully during OTAs and minicamp, and should get going in his first career NFL training camp.

What is unclear, however, is how big a role he will have in defense. The Lions are fairly deep at the wing position, with Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara returning from injury and Paschal’s biggest challenge for playing time – John Cominsky – returning to the team on a two-year deal.

But Paschal has something that all three of those players don’t: youth. He is the future at the position and the Lions have shown in the past that they are not afraid to play their young players. And with Paschal’s versatility to play both wing and interior, there’s no doubt he’ll get his fair share of opportunities in 2023.

Paschal has already made a good impression with new defensive line coach John Scott Jr., albeit during padless OTA practices.

“From the things I’ve seen out here in individual and team stuff, that guy moves well, he’s explosive,” Scott said. “I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen. I’m looking forward to when we get pads on and then you can put it all together. But as far as movement in practice and knowing what he’s going to do and execute, he has done a really good job with it.”

I wouldn’t expect a big year from Paschal just because of the Lions’ high rotation. However, the stage is set for Paschal to take on a much more significant role in 2024, and this upcoming season will serve as a nice springboard for that growth.

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