Julian Okwara is a player the Detroit Lions coaching staff were intrigued to assess before training camp began.
“I can tell you this, I definitely wanted to see Julian Okwara,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell told reporters earlier this week. “Let’s see what he looks like in the pads and how he reacts. At the start of training I thought he was physical, and it showed.”
Okwara left Wednesday’s practice early with a bruised ribs, but returned on Friday to continue his ascent in defense of the Lions.
Among Friday’s highlights, the 23-year-old used his speed and agility to better tackle Penei Sewell on the right in a one-on-one exercise.
Okwara quickly used an inside movement to beat Sewell, who was beaten by Okwara’s first outside look.
Campbell told reporters he expected Sewell to pick up his pieces early in training camp, but it was very important how the rookie reacted.
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“It’s just about taking it day to day and rep to rep, because what can happen with these guys – he has the talent, he has the ability – is not to lose confidence. I think that’s a great thing because he’s going to have some bad days. It’s just going to happen. It happens to the best of them, “Campbell said.” I think for him it’s just understanding, ‘Why did this happen?’ How do you correct it? Why did this happen? How do you correct it? Go on to the next one. For me, it’s just ‘Learn it. Let’s get out of here. Learn from it. “
Okwara, a third-round pick in the 2020 draft, only appeared in six games as a rookie and didn’t register any sacks.
Like many, the coaching staff strives to ensure that players consistently demonstrate an understanding of the concepts presented and do not make the same mistake over and over.
“Let’s see him do it on Friday if he’s back and see him do it on Saturday at Ford Field and then see him come back next week after the day off and start over in the pads,” Campbell said. “These little things are what I’m looking for with some of these guys.”
The Lions defense recorded just 24 sacks in 2020, a number Okwara noted needs to be increased this season.
“Definitely, we need to improve that number,” Okwara said. “We have to do a lot of better things this year and become a better line of defense and defense and play together, honestly.”