It’s been a long wait for Detroit Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara, 14 months to be exact. The Lions defender suffered a torn Achilles on October 3 of 2021—just four games into his big three-year, $39 million contract where Detroit had hoped to lock down a key piece of their defensive line going forward. It was a big blow to both the Lions defense and Okwara’s career.
However, after practicing for the last month, Okwara is set to make his 2022 debut this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The Lions are in the midst of a long-shot playoff run, and their team—especially the defense—is starting to finally hit its stride.
“I’m excited just to be a part of it,” Okwara said this week. “The guys are playing really, really, really well all season really. And I’m just glad it’s starting to show a little more. They’ve been working their ass off, so I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
Last week, the Lions activated Okwara off of injured reserve—they more or less had to, as his evaluation period was expiring—but he wasn’t quite ready to play against the Jaguars. Lions coach Dan Campbell more or less confirmed on Friday that Okwara will be active this week. However, he was a little less forthcoming about how big of a role he’ll play.
“I don’t know how many snaps he’ll get, but certainly, we see him going and having a role for us,” Campbell said.
The way the Lions have recently treated returns from long-term injuries, Okwara seems destined for a smaller role, likely around 10 snaps. How much does Okwara think he can handle in his first game back?
“As much as they give me.”
Two years ago, Okwara led the Lions with 10.0 sacks on the season and finished in the top 15 in the NFL in pressures. This year, he could give a nice boost to a Lions pass rush that has really struggled most of the year. While rookies Aidan Hutchinson (six sacks) and James Houston (three) have flashed at times, the entire team ranks 27th in sacks and dead last in pass rush win rate.
Getting to the quarterback could be key on Sunday against the Vikings, as Kirk Cousins is not a guy who can regularly escape pressure, and like most quarterbacks, his efficiency drops off a cliff when pressured. Per PFF, his passer rating goes from 121.7 when kept clean all the way down to 72.0 when pressured.