3 Lions earn spots on PFF’s All-Improved team for 2023

USA Today

We’re getting to the time of the season when lists and honors for the full season start trickling out. One of the first comes from Pro Football Focus.

PFF revealed it’s “All-Improved Team” for 2023. Three Detroit Lions make an appearance, including one that might be a surprise.

Running back David Montgomery, right tackle Penei Sewell and defensive tackle Alim McNeill made the cut.

McNeill is no surprise. The DT changed his body, becoming more of an attacking interior presence in his third NFL season. He’s second on the Lions in sacks (5) and has been among the most disruptive tackles around the league.

Montgomery is a bit of a surprise, in that he was already an accomplished back for the Bears. PFF explained it nicely,

It helps that Montgomery is rushing behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, but his vision and ability to break off big runs have still improved. Montgomery is recording an explosive run on 28.3% of his rushing attempts, the highest mark of his career, and he has rushed for a career-high 10 touchdowns. Sometimes, a change of scenery can get the best out of a player, and Montgomery is having a career year in Detroit.

Then there’s Sewell, who had already established himself as one of the NFL’s best offensive tackles over the course of his first two seasons. He has indeed improved, especially before struggling a bit the last two weeks,

Sewell’s 90.0 overall grade is the best among all NFL tackles by a considerable margin — Tyron Smith is second with an 86.5 grade — and he has allowed just 12 pressures all season. He was already a rising star, but Sewell is going to be considered one of the best in the game for a long time.

It’s a nice recognition on a list that typically includes players more like McNeill — guys who leap from average to noteworthy impact players.

One curious omission: linebacker Alex Anzalone. The follically gifted backer is having a career year, and it’s reflected in his PFF grades. Anzalone has an overall grade of 76.6 and a coverage mark of 77.3, both of which are handily the best of his seven-year NFL career. He also has a career-high three sacks.

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