Detroit Lions remedies, Part II
The other young player that needs to be featured is Jack linebacker- edge rusher, Julian Okwara. Of the defense’s considerable problems, one of the long-standing issues is the lack of a pass rush. We’ve chronicled the struggles there many times and things still haven’t been fixed.
We have a 6-foot-4, 252-pound, pass-rushing, ball of speed (runs a 4.5-second forty-yard dash) and we have barely let him see the field. The Lions have literally no one else who is as fast among their linebackers and defensive linemen. Jarrad Davis and Jamie Collins are both athletic and can run but Okwara is the ideal physical package for the Jack linebacker.
Okwara has seen 25 total snaps on defense while the Detroit Lions have 5.0 sacks as a team, tied for 31st in the NFL. Julian’s older brother, Romeo, leads the team with 2.0 sacks, while Jamie Collins, Reggie Ragland, and Trey Flowers all have one each, according to the team website. The Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers have 20.0 sacks each with the Steelers achieving the mark in four games to lead the NFL.
In Okwara’s 31 starts from his sophomore season on, he has 15.5 sacks and 24.0 tackles-for-loss. His junior and injury-shortened senior year he collected 13.0 sacks and 19.5 of his tackles-for-loss. We understand if they want to make sure that he’s 100% healthy but indications are that he is.
However, if you’re newly-acquired defensive coordinator, Cory Undlin, wouldn’t you use the talented rookie to get his speed on the field? You have to threaten the other team’s line and quarterback or you can’t get off of the field ever. That’s precisely what we’ve seen out of this team, too.
According to Pro Football Reference, Okwara has only been in on defense 9% of the defensive snaps and was a healthy scratch, they decided not to dress him, during the Week 2 blowout by Green Bay. We get that missing preseason has created issues, none bigger than acclimating rookies for the teams that need to use theirs.
Putting that to the side, you have to get your speed and playmakers on the field. You HAVE to. If that means sitting guys making millions, then do it.
Okwara needs playing time. Once he has some, it is also likely that he increases the effectiveness of other players like Collins or Flowers, who will be helped by Okwara’s speed and the threat it creates.