Outside of Jason Pierre Paul and Olivier Vernon, who’ve each been on the field for over 90 percent of snaps on defense, there hasn’t been much playing time to go around for New York Giants’ defensive ends. They’ll eventually wear down at that rate, and when/if that happens, who will be ready to step in and contribute?
Romeo Okwara is that guy, according to a list of the most underutilized players around the NFL, put together by ESPN in conjunction with Pro Football Focus. Check out what they had to say about the Giants’ undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame:
Okwara has been strong against the run as a rookie, and he should see even more snaps on early downs to spell New York's two workhorses at defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. Pierre-Paul has played 577 snaps (second in the NFL) and Vernon has played 549 (sixth in the NFL), so getting Okwara out there on early downs could help keep them fresh down the stretch.
Okwara has seen about 12 snaps per game on defense through Week 10. That could increase as the Giants make their postseason push, though ESPN’s Jordan Raanan doesn’t deem it as likely.
What the Giants liked about Okwara this summer was his ability to play with power and get after the passer. He has some talent but hasn't produced much in his limited playing time to date. The Giants just don't seem willing to ease up on Vernon and Pierre-Paul's workload. Okwara played just nine snaps Monday night against the Bengals, and, unless there is an injury to Vernon or Pierre-Paul, his playing time will probably remain in that range for the rest of the season. Kerry Wynn is their preferred interior rusher on passing downs.
Notwithstanding, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo may have to adjust his rotation at some point. The defense has been Big Blue’s strength in 2016 and, though it isn’t reflected in their sack totals, JPP and Vernon have been disruptive on the ends. With their bye in the rear-view, it would be prudent for the Giants to lighten the duo’s workload over the final seven games.