Dan Campbell, the new head coach of the Detroit Lions, is full of praise for the team’s first-round pick in the recently-concluded NFL draft. Campbell sees shades of an All-Pro running back when he looks at the 7th overall pick, Penei Sewell.
Sewell, an offensive tackle from Oregon, was widely considered one of the best linemen in the draft. The Lions had a glaring need at the position, and they pounced when Sewell fell into their lap.
Campbell, who played as a tight end and is known for his tough demeanor on the football field, can’t help but be impressed by Sewell’s physicality and athleticism. The new Lions coach said in a recent interview that he sees similarities between the rookie and one of the game’s all-time greats, Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton.
“I played against guys like Walter Payton, and one thing about Walter is that he was just such a physical player. He was always looking for contact, always trying to impose his will on the defense,” Campbell said.
“And when I look at Penei, I see some of that same mentality. He’s obviously a big guy with a lot of power, but he also has great balance and agility. He’s the kind of player who can open up huge running lanes for our backs and protect our quarterback, but he’s also a guy who can get downfield and deliver punishing blocks.”
Campbell’s comparison to Payton might seem like a stretch, but there are certainly some similarities between the two players’ mentalities. Payton was known for his relentless work ethic, his willingness to endure pain and injury, and his fierce competitive spirit. Sewell, too, has drawn praise for his dedication to his craft and his willingness to put in extra work to improve his game.
Of course, Sewell is still a rookie and has a long way to go to match Payton’s accomplishments. But Campbell’s enthusiasm is understandable, given the impact that a dominant offensive line can have on a team’s success. The Lions finished last in the NFC North division in 2020 with a record of 5-11, and much of their struggles can be attributed to a patchwork offensive line that struggled to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford.
With Sewell in the fold, however, the Lions have reason to be optimistic. If he can live up to even a fraction of Payton’s legacy, he could help transform the Lions’ fortunes and bring some much-needed stability to their offensive line. It’s still early days, but Lions fans will no doubt be excited to see what the rookie can do when he takes the field this fall.