Many have speculated that the additions of well-respected coaches Aaron Glenn as the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator and Aubrey Pleasant as defensive backs coach could pay huge dividends for the Lions defense and, in particular, the secondary. After all, Glenn turned a bunch of young talent in New Orleans into one of the best secondaries in the game. Pleasant, too, has an impressive resume from his time with the Los Angeles Rams. Not many get an endorsement from Jalen Ramsey.
While much of that improvement in Detroit remains hypothetical, second-year cornerback Jeff Okudah has already started to feel the difference in coaching.
“Within the first couple of meetings, I was just picking up so much things that I thought to myself, ‘It just would have been nice to have these tools in my toolbox in my rookie year,’” Okudah told local reporters on Thursday.
That is as much of an endorsement of the current coaching staff as it is an indictment of the previous regime.
To be fair, Okudah already has a built-in rapport with Aaron Glenn, who was his seven-on-seven coach back during his high school days. Still, Okudah said the way he’s watching film has already changed drastically under both Glenn and Pleasant.
“Looking at the film and breaking down how the offense is trying to attack,” Okudah said of his offseason focus. “That’s what I try to do every single day going into the game plan. So just having the tools that (Pleasant) has put in my toolbox, it’s like I’m seeing film from a whole new perspective, I’m seeing the game completely different. That’s one thing that has me really excited going into my second year.”
Okudah is looking to rebound after what can only be described as a disappointing rookie season. First seasons are notoriously tough on cornerbacks, but being the third overall selection in the draft undoubtedly raised expectations from fans and analysts. Through an injury-plagued season, Okudah started just six games and finished 2020 with a PFF grade of 42.5—172nd out of 188 corners who played at least 40 percent of defensive snaps.
The road is still long for Okudah to get better, but he’s encouraged by the lessons he’s already learned, and he’s looking forward to what could be a much better season ahead.
“It’s only been two or three months and we still have all this work to do. But it has me excited of how much more there is to learn and how much better there is to get leading up to the season.”