If you ever needed a rock solid reason to keep Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford from ever appearing a preseason game again, let it be this one: L.A. allowed a sack on Saturday to a player who was making his football debut.
Not his NFL debut. His football game debut.
Chargers defensive tackle C.J. Okoye, a product of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, had never played in an organized football game in his life. Okoye, whose given name is Basil, was one of six Nigerian players selected by NFL teams in this year’s class of international players and sacked quarterback Stetson Bennett in Saturday’s 34-17 win over the Rams.
The NFL International Pathway Program recruits players from faraway lands and assigns them to teams on something like internships. The Chargers got CJ Okoye from Nigeria and here he is recording a sack in his first game of organized football. https://t.co/1uasPoTEtV— Steve Henson (@SteveHenson) August 14, 2023
Discovered at a football camp run by former NFL star Osu Umenyiora, who was on a quest to find hidden talents in Africa, Okoye was a literal standout at 6’8. Originally slated to play offensive tackle, Okoye is also new to the defensive side of the ball. He was selected by the Chargers for this year’s pathway program (a recent Rams player added this way was Max Pircher, who is now with the Lions) and is more likely to land on the practice squad than the 53-man roster.
But against the Rams backup offensive line on Saturday, some of whom could actually have key roles on L.A.’s roster, Okoye was able to sneak by for his first sack in his first ever organized football game.
So yeah, Stafford should definitely sit. The question instead turns on the players hired to protect him.