Allen Park — Josh Paschal was recovering from hernia surgery for a majority of last offseason, a process that left him feeling “distant” from the team he was just drafted to.
This offseason? He’s officially on the inside — and that’s not just a reference to his involvement in the team’s mandatory minicamp sessions and OTAs. The second-year defensive lineman out of Kentucky, a top-50 pick in 2022, was drafted to do it all.
He’s finally getting the chance to work toward mastering it all.
“I can make the biggest impact just being versatile, being able to play on the edge, help set edges to stop run (plays),” Paschal said, “and to be able to come inside and rush the passer, to be able to be that twitchy guy up front in the middle.”
Paschal returned from injury in Week 7 and played an average of 59.3 snaps through his first three games, while Charles Harris was dealing with a groin injury, Romeo Okwara had yet to be activated from his Achilles injury, James Houston was still hidden on the practice squad and the Lions’ defense, at large, was putrid.
He then missed two games because of a knee injury. When Paschal returned in Week 13, the team was rolling — including a standout pair of rookie D-linemen in Houston and Aidan Hutchinson. Paschal surpassed 20 snaps just once from Weeks 13-18; Hutchinson rounded out into the No. 2 pick-worthy player many had hoped, while Houston, meanwhile, picked up sacks like no other rookie before him.
Hutchinson, Houston and Paschal together had 20.5 sacks, an NFL record for most sacks by a team’s rookies.
“I wouldn’t say it’s any pressure” to match their production, Paschal said. “I would say it’s more of a push … it’s just more like I get to see my brothers doing their thing, balling, succeeding, and I’m happy for them, and it also gives me the motivation to go out there and do the same, to be able to say that we ballin’ on the same level, so I’m excited for it.”
This offseason has given him the time necessary to prepare to make that kind of impact.
“It does feel different just because I’m out here right now. Had a full offseason, you know?” Paschal said. “Get ready for the upcoming season. And I’m just ready to put in the work. I’m thankful to be out here right now. That’s the biggest difference right now, is me being healthy and out here.”
“Just being able to, first of all, get stronger. Being stronger in the offseason and then coming back to the season (and) just being able to work ahead. Pass-rush moves. Being able to have some counters off of my power rushes and stuff like that.”
Missing the extended time hurt Paschal’s production, but he said he was able to learn a lot about the league in his first season.
“I learned a lot last year just about the pace of the game, the change in the game from college to NFL,” Paschal said. “Just getting my feet wet last year and being able to go out there (and) start some games. But, I’m thankful for that full experience last year of coming to the league. I was injured, able to rehab and come back.
“It taught me a lot about patience, perseverance and all the things that you need.”