Lions defensive end Julian Okwara on IR, out at least three games

Rod Beard Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

The Detroit Lions had made some noticeable improvements with their pass rush in Sunday's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. If they're going to build on that progress, they'll need to do it without rookie defensive end Julian Okwara, who suffered an injury to his right leg in the victory.

The Lions placed Okwara on injured reserve Wednesday, meaning he will miss at least three games. Coach Matt Patricia didn't elaborate on the extent of the injury during his video conference with the media, but indicated that it could be a few weeks before Okwara is able to return to practice.   

Lions defensive end Julian Okwara was injured in Sunday's game vs. Jacksonville.

"I don't think we'll put a timetable on Julian's situation and we'll just kind of take it as it comes," Patricia said. "I would say it's just, day by day at the moment, week by week. It'll be a couple of weeks here, but we'll see what it looks like."

A third-round draft pick out of Notre Dame, Okwara has had a rough time cracking Detroit's defensive rotation through the first five games. He was a healthy scratch in Week 2 and played 18 total snaps the two contests before suffering his injury. 

In Sunday's game against the Jaguars, he was productive in the early going, registering two quarterback pressures on his first three pass-rush snaps, before he was removed from the game. 

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Okwara will be eligible to come off injured reserve when the Lions host Washington on Nov. 15. 

To fill Okwara's roster spot, the Lions re-signed cornerback Chris Jones. He had been released over the weekend when the team promoted quarterback David Blough off the practice squad. 

Additionally, the team announced defensive end Austin Bryant will return from the physically unable to perform list and is slated to practice Wednesday. 

A fourth-round pick out of Clemson a year ago, Bryant has battled multiple injuries during his young career. He spent the first 11 games of his rookie season on injured reserve and missed another contest down the stretch due to a hip injury.

Bryant ended up appearing in four games in 2019, where he was on the field for 133 defense snaps and finished with eight tackles and zero sacks. 

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Bryant has been sidelined this year with an unknown injury, missing the entirety of training camp. At this stage, with so much missed practice time, it's unclear what he can give the Lions this season. 

“We don’t look at the big picture," Patricia said. "I think what we’re trying to do is just make sure we get a couple good reps here today for him and make sure we see what that looks like and give him some confidence and just get back into the rhythm of things for him.

"Austin’s a phenomenal guy, every single day," Patricia continued. "He studies, he learns, he listens, he works hard. I’m excited just to get him back on the field and let him get going and coach him and see where we’re at. But certainly haven’t done football stuff here in a long time, so we just have to be patient with that, too, and make sure that we go through the process to get him back out there in the right manner.”

The Lions will have a 21-day window to determine whether to activate Bryant to the roster or move him to injured reserve, ending his season. 

Finally, the Lions also announced a pair of practice squad additions on Wednesday, bringing back tight end Matt Sokol (Michigan State) and offensive tackle Dan Skipper. Both players were with the Lions during training camp. 

To clear the room, the team released wide receiver Joe Webb and punter Arryn Sippos off the practice squad.