Detroit Lions waiver wire gamble starting to pay big dividends
The Detroit Lions took a flier on a waiver wire find just before the start of the season. And the third-year defender is proving to be quite the steal.
The Detroit Lions enter the regular season with questions surrounding their defensive line. Those concerns escalated to new heights following the surprising release of third-year defensive end Anthony Zettel combined with the shoulder injury that has sidelined premier pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah since Week One.
Who knew that a random waiver wire claim won prior to the start of the season would make such a big impact on the Lions defense? That player, of course, being third-year defensive end Romeo Okwara.
Undrafted out of Notre Dame back in 2016, Okwara was a two-year starter for the Fighting Irish. He posted 48 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks during his senior season. Okwara signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent, and started four games for the G-Men his rookie year, recording 25 tackles and a sack.
A knee sprain limited Okwara to just six games and a total of 82 defensive snaps in 2017. The young defensive end was waived by the Giants in early September and claimed by Detroit the following day.
Since joining the Lions, Okwara has started in four games, playing more than 62 percent of the team’s defensive snaps (201). He’s recorded seven combined tackles, four quarterback hurries, three QB hits, and 3.0 sacks so far. Okwara currently ranks second on the team in sacks, tied with pass rusher Eli Harold and just below linebacker Devon Kennard, who has 5.0 sacks.
Following Okwara’s breakout two sack, one forced fumble performance in a big win over the team’s NFC North rivals, the Green Bay Packers, last weekend, ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe highlighted the 23-year old as an unheralded baller in Week Five.
"“[Okwara] was a waiver claim right before the start of the season, and he’s starting to get hot. The third-year pro had one sack coming into the year, but he has three in the past two weeks. His first quarter strip sack of Rodgers helped Detroit jump out to a 17-0 lead.”"
The Detroit Lions seemed to have found a real steal in defensive end Romeo Okwara. New head coach Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme required several major changes along the Lions’ roster this offseason. So it isn’t surprising that we are now starting to see some unknown names emerging as playmakers among this revamped defense.