Is Lions edge rusher Julian Okwara headed for a breakout in 2022?

SideLion Report

After an at-times promising 2021 campaign, is Julian Okwara set for a total breakout in 2022?

If you were to list need areas for the Detroit Lions, defensive line and pass rush would be high on the list and perhaps in equal tandem.

With the potential of adding an edge rusher in the 2022 draft looming, the Lions might look for some improvement from within. On that front, Julian Okwara is a name that comes to mind.

Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report has predicted a breakout player for each of the 32 NFL teams in 2022. For the Lions, Okwara was tabbed as the guy.

The 24-year-old only saw 31.7 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Yet he was second on the team in sacks with five. Okwara also proved to be a versatile defender. He also had an interception and only allowed four receptions on nine targets,” Ballentine said.

The defense switching to more four-man fronts will make things interesting for the slender Okwara (6’4″, 245 lbs),” Ballentine said. “…but it’s a good bet his explosiveness and athleticism will force the coaches to find the right role for him.”

With an increased snap count, can Julian Okwara flourish?

Reigning sack leader Charles Harris is back and someone is probably coming in the draft to bolster the pass rush, but Okwara has an opportunity to be a force for the Lions defense along with his brother Romeo, who is coming back from an Achilles’ tear. Down at the Senior Bowl back in early February, Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard set the expectations for the younger Okwara.

J.O., the strides he took this year, if he can continue to build on that, it starts with him in the offseason,” Sheppard continued. “Where’s he training? What are you doing? Are you doing the right things with your body and all the things I’ve asked you to do? Are you working on that and not doing these YouTube drills you see? But that player, I’m telling you, his career can go wherever he wants it to go.”

Finishing 2021 with five sacks, good for second on the team, is just the start for a guy like Okwara. In the right role, with combination of more snaps and a little bit better health after missing three games down the stretch last season, he could flourish.

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