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2020 NFL Draft: How Julian Okwara impacts Detroit Lions’ roster

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The Lions got the pass rusher they desperately needed.

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Brothers in arms!

The Lions added a pass rusher atop the third round of the NFL Draft, and it will be a familiar name — literally. The Lions selected Notre Dame defensive end Julian Okwara, brother of current Lion Romeo. It’s a Shakespearean family reunion.

Player selected: Julian Okwara

Position: DE/EDGE

Current players on roster at DE/EDGE:

  • Austin Bryant
  • Trey Flowers
  • Frank Herron
  • Romeo Okwara
  • Jonathan Wynn

Offseason losses at DE/EDGE:

  • Devon Kennard

Impact:

Perhaps the Lions’ biggest weakness in 2019 was their pass rush. Opposing quarterbacks had ages to throw the football, and while contain was prioritized by Matt Patricia’s scheme, the lack of pass rush was brutal for the secondary. Outside of Trey Flowers and blitzing linebackers, the Lions struggled to consistently put pressure on quarterbacks. Devon Kennard, released by the team in March, recorded seven sacks, but was largely mediocre in the JACK role of the Lions defense.

Julian Okwara will likely slot into Kennard’s old role, and he is a perfect fit for it. Although he did not measure at the combine due to his recovery from a fractured fibula, he possesses good burst and should provide a solid weapon for the Lions. The Lions defense features a wide array of linemen, and Julian should give the Lions an upgrade on the outside. He and his brother Romeo could, oddly enough, compete for starting snaps across from Flowers.

The biggest competition for Julian is Austin Bryant. Drafted last year, Bryant fills a similar role to Okwara and Kennard. He spent a majority of the 2019 season recovering from a pectoral injury. He was ineffective in his limited snaps once he returned from the Injured Reserve, but expect the Lions to spend a lot of time looking at Bryant’s and Julian’s performances during the offseason and preseason.