Detroit Lions’ Aaron Glenn: Focus on big plays Jeff Okudah makes, not ones he gives up

Detroit Free Press

Cornerbacks are going to give up big plays in the NFL, which is why Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has a message for everyone focused on the 43-yard bomb Jeff Okudah allowed in last week’s preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“His eyes were bad and he gave up a play,” Glenn said Tuesday. “But there’s been a lot of plays he has made and at some point we got to talk about those plays he has made instead of the ones he didn’t make.”

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Okudah was in coverage on Diontae Johnson on Pittsburgh’s second possession, when he guess wrong on a hitch route and got beat deep on third-and-3.

The Steelers scored their first touchdown six plays later, and Okudah chalked the play up as one more thing to learn from as he gets ready for his second NFL season.

“It was just something like when you tell your kid not to put their hand on the stove and they do and get burnt,” Okudah said. “That was one of those moments where I feel like it was really self-inflicted. So I learned a lot from it and like I said, I think it’ll make me a better player going forward.”

The No. 3 pick in last year’s draft, Okudah is coming off a rookie season in which he allowed a 118 passer rating against, according to Pro Football Reference.

He underwent groin surgery in December that prematurely ended his season, but has looked like a different, more confident player this summer.

“I wouldn’t say (I’m like) a new dude,” Okudah said. “I think it’s just getting back to my old self. So it’s been really good for me just enjoying the game, enjoying being out here with you guys. It’s been a blessing, honestly.”

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Okudah did not practice Tuesday and could sit out Friday’s preseason finale against the Indianapolis Colts.

He said his absence at practice was due to the team’s effort to manage his workload, and said he’s ready to prove his rookie struggles were a fluke when he steps on the field this fall.

“I have a lot of confidence going into Year 2,” he said. “Up to this point, I think I’ve taken a lot of reps. I’ve been able to see a lot of different things. And just being around the whole energy in Detroit’s been really great for me. It’s really uplifting, so I’m excited for Year 2, whatever it has to offer.”

‘Their choice’

COVID-19 case rates continue to rise as the delta variant spreads across the country, but Lions coach Dan Campbell said he feels “pretty good” about his team’s ability to manage outbreaks and limit any impact the virus will have on regular season games this fall.

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“Because what I think of is last year,” Campbell said. “That’s where my baseline is at, like, ‘Oh my God.’  Last year, you have one guy and he tests positive and he’s been next to somebody who has no symptoms and you lose all those guys. I mean, we lost all of our running backs last game of the year (with the New Orleans Saints). Thank God it wasn’t to get into the playoffs or something.”

More than 80% of Lions players have been vaccinated, though Campbell said that number has increased only incrementally since the start of training camp.

Three Lions — Nick Williams, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Evan Heim — have spent time on the reserve/COVID list this summer, and potential starters Tyrell Williams and Mike Ford are among others who have said they are not vaccinated or still are wearing masks at practice, indicating they likely have not received the vaccine.

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Several NFL teams have dealt with minor outbreaks this summer, or been forced to quarantine key players who have not been vaccinated, but Campbell said he does not think those instances — or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent formal approval of the Pfizer vaccine — will convince any of the team’s remaining holdouts to get vaccinated.

“If it hadn’t happened by now, they’re pretty dug in,” he said. “That’s a good way to put it and it’s just – listen, that’s their choice. That’s how they feel and their belief and we gave them all of the resources and all of the research and everything we could that had nothing to do with us, Detroit Lions, or not even the NFL. We try to give them the proper information to where they can make the best judgement possible. That’s up to them.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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