Lions edge rush contingent will receive boost in near future


The Lions’ edge rush contingent will receive a boost in the near future. Julian Okwara has been designated for return from IR, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network notes. 

Okwara suffered a knee injury in Detroit’s preseason finale, and his IR designation required at least a four-week absence. The fact his practice window has been opened at the first opportunity is an encouraging sign of his ability to return to game action quickly. Players designated for return have 21 days to be activated once they resume practicing.

The younger brother of teammate Romeo Okwara, Julian has yet to remain healthy for a full season in his NFL career. The 25-year-old missed 21 regular season games across his first three seasons in the Motor City, and his latest injury will delay his 2023 debut until October. When on the field, though, Okwara has proven to be an effective rotational contributor with seven sacks and 22 pressures combined in 2021 and ’22.

The former third-rounder saw three starts during that span while logging snap shares of 40% and 32% along the way. A path to an increased workload may be hard to come by with the elder Okwara, along with Aidan Hutchinson, Charles Harris and James Houston in place on the pass-rush depth chart. That group has helped the Lions rack up 13 sacks through four games and in turn guide the team to a 3-1 start.

Okwara’s rookie deal is set to expire at the end of the season, so a return to the playing field and a strong contract year performance would help his free-agent stock. He will first be eligible to play in Week 5 when the Lions look to continue their strong start against the winless Panthers. Okwara will aim to carve out at least a repeat of his depth role upon his return.

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