Romeo Okwara was one of the few defensive success stories for the 2020 Detroit Lions. In his third season in Detroit, Okwara managed to bag 10 sacks. That’s more than double his career total from his first four seasons and was done in a defensive scheme that gave the 25-year-old Okwara almost no help.
It was a remarkable performance for Okwara. And it might just be the beginning of bigger and better things to come for the Lions EDGE.
Per Next Gen Stats, Okwara notched the second-highest pressure rate on third downs at just under 24 percent. That’s a fantastic rate of creating pressure.
Now here’s where it gets really promising for Okwara, who is moving to a more defined stand-up OLB pass rush role in 2021.
Three of the top five players in the league in 2020 at generating pressure on third downs played for the New Orleans Saints. That’s critical because the new defensive coordinator for Okwara and the Lions is Aaron Glenn, who comes to Detroit from New Orleans.
Okwara projects to play the exact same role in Glenn’s scheme in Detroit that Trey Hendrickson played in New Orleans. Hendrickson exploded for 13.5 sacks in 2020, his first full season playing in that role after being more of a supporting player in his first three seasons.
The @Saints defense featured three different defenders who ranked in the top five in 3rd down pressure rate last season (min. 50 pass rushes).
#1) Trey Hendrickson (now w/@Bengals )
#3) Demario Davis
#4) Marcus Davenport
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) June 3, 2021
Okwara actually scored a higher pass rush grade from Pro Football Focus than Hendrickson, 84.5 to 77.0, and registered 17 more QB pressures (42 to 25), albeit in over 200 more snaps.
The signs for an even bigger breakout campaign for Okwara are there. He needs to finish more of his pressures with sacks, and more of his tackles in general, to truly take the next step. But the age, the talent and now the scheme all line up for Okwara to build much higher upon his impressive 2020.