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Romeo Okwara looking to evolve now that ‘the cat’s out of the bag’

Okwara’s potential is no longer a secret and it’s good he recognizes that.

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions officially announced the re-signing of edge rusher Romeo Okwara on Wednesday and made him available to the media via a virtual press conference. The focus of the Zoom call centered around three main topics: His motivation to continue playing with his brother Julian in Detroit (which Jeremy’s Reisman covered here), his desire to develop his game, and his anticipated role in the Lions’ new defense.

“Obviously, I see myself as a pass rusher, edge setter,” Okwara said. “Looking forward to being able to build and grow upon the different tools I’ve learned over the years. Keeping consistent and keep growing as a D-line together and as a defense.”

After a career year that saw him register 10 sacks, the new coaching staff is keenly aware of how Okwara succeeds and plan on keeping him in an attacking role. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn recently referred to Okwara as a “pressure player” and said he plans on having Okwara rush the passer because “that’s what he does best”.

“Any way you’re able to affect the quarterback position is a good thing,” Okwara continued. “So that’s something I want to develop. And the more times you get to the quarterback and affect the quarterback the better chance your team has of winning. So that’s definitely something I want to develop and I feel is really important.”

None of this is overly surprising, of course. The Lions defensive scheme is expected to be pressure oriented and Okwara is going to be a key factor in their ability to be successful. But Okwara will face one obstacle this season he didn’t have to face last season—he’s on the NFL’s radar now.

“This year is probably going to be even more of a challenge,” Okwara said. “Because it's no secret anymore, I guess the cat’s out of the bag and more people are going to be paying attention to me. I have to be even more developed within the (pass rush) counters and the pass rush moves.”

Develop. Okwara said that word multiple times in his press conference and it’s reassuring to hear that because he’s absolutely right, there is an opportunity to expand his game beyond what he produced last season. And while Okwara can work to expand his skill set, Lions coaches can also help him in this venture.

I recently profiled how I expect coaches to deploy Okwara in the new scheme, suggesting he would be best used as a dedicated pass rusher who the Lions could move around to different spots. So it was nice to hear that when he was asked where is he going to play in the new defense? Standing up at linebacker? Hand in the dirt?

Okwara responded with a smile: “All of it”.

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