Penei Sewell Had His Hands Full with Julian Okwara

Julian Okwara is making a name for himself in his second season in the NFL.

Julian Okwara is a player the Detroit Lions coaching staff was intrigued to evaluate prior to the start of training camp. 

"I can tell you this, certainly wanted to see Julian Okwara," Lions head coach Dan Campbell told reporters earlier this week. "Let's see what he looks like in pads and how he responds. In the early part of practice, I thought he was physical, and it showed up."

Okwara left Wednesday's practice early with a rib contusion, but he returned Friday to continue his ascent for the Lions defense.

Among the highlights Friday was the 23-year-old using his speed and agility to best right tackle Penei Sewell in a one-on-one pass-rush drill.

Okwara quickly used an inside move to best Sewell, who was beaten by the initial outside look Okwara gave him. 

Campbell told reporters that he expected Sewell to take his lumps early in training camp, but that it was most important how the rookie would respond. 

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“It’s about just taking it day-to-day and rep-to-rep because what can happen with those guys -- he’s got the talent, he’s got the ability -- is not to lose confidence. I think that’s a big thing because he’s going to have a couple of bad days. It’s just going to happen. It happens to the best of them," Campbell said. "I think for him it is just take it in, ‘Why did it happen?’ How do you correct it? Why did it happen? How do you correct it? Move on to the next one. To me it’s just about, ‘Learn from it. Let’s move on. Learn from it."

Okwara, a third-round pick in the 2020 draft, only appeared in six games as a rookie and did not record a single sack. 

Like with many, the coaching staff is seeking for players to consistently demonstrate understanding of the concepts being presented and not making the same error on multiple occasions. 

"Let's see him do it Friday if he's back and let's see him do it Saturday at Ford Field and then let's see him come back next week after the day off and do it again in pads," Campbell said. "Those little things are what I'm looking for with some of these guys."

The Lions defense only recorded 24 sacks in 2020, a number Okwara noted needed to be increased this season. 

"Definitely we need to improve on that number," Okwara said. "We need to do a lot of things better this year and just become a better defense and defensive line and just play together, honestly."