The Detroit Lions have officially activated edge rusher James Houston from injured reserve and waived edge rusher Julian Okwara in a corresponding move.
Houston injured his ankle/lower leg in early September and was placed on injured reserve to recover. Three weeks ago, he was healthy enough to begin practicing and the Lions opened his 21-day evaluation window and he began practicing. With that window set to expire, the Lions made the decision that he was healthy enough to activate to the 53-man roster.
The Lions pass rush has been limited for most of the season, with Aidan Hutchinson accounting for the majority of Detroit’s production. Defensive tackle Alim McNeill has also contributed from the interior, but finding an edge rusher that can consistently bring pressure opposite Hutchinson has been a problem.
The addition of Houston, who had eight sacks in the final seven games of the 2022 season, could be just what is needed to help bring a boost to the defense.
“I feel like I’m an extremely explosive player. I like to say I’m a game-changer,” Houston said in December. “So I feel like that’s what I could help with, especially in the pass rushes, sacks, forced fumbles. All types of things.”
While Houston could potentially bring some additional heat to the Lions front, don’t expect him to be an every-down contributor. In fact, it’s more than likely that he will take on a pass-rushing specialist role, similar to how Bruce Irvin contributed down the stretch of the regular season.
Okwara, who was also in contention for this role, was never able to settle in to a consistent routine, and that inconsistency is likely what led to his release. Okwara will be subjected to waivers, and if claimed, he will join the claiming team following the Super Bowl. If unclaimed, he is free to sign with any team of his choice—including the Lions—and could join them on their active roster or practice squad.