Lions’ Campbell: Too early to talk position changes for Decker, Okudah

Detroit News

Drafted to play right tackle for the Detroit Lions, many are wondering what the future holds for rookie Penei Sewell after a stellar debut on the left side of the team’s offensive line, in place of injured starter Taylor Decker.

Lions coach Dan Campbell hears that noise, but moving Sewell permanently to the left side, a position he dominated in the college ranks, isn’t high on the list of priorities given more-pressing issues at hand.

“My goodness, man, that’s so far down the road,” Campbell said during a Tuesday morning interview with 97.1-FM. “I’m serious. I don’t want to sound like I’m avoiding the question, but what are we going to do against Green Bay? We know Sewell will be at the left and I thought those guys up front played pretty good, man. So those are our guys right now and when Decker comes back, that’ll be a good problem to have, to figure out what we’re going to do.”

Debuting as the youngest player to ever start at left tackle, Sewell held his own against former Pro Bowler Nick Bosa. The rookie was particularly impressive in the run game, while limiting Bosa to a single sack in pass protection.

“I thought he did a good job,” Campbell said Monday. “I thought he held his own. There were a couple of plays in there where he got beat. Bosa got him on a bull on one, but I thought he did a good job. He went over there, and he fought, and he held up for us and that was very encouraging to see. When you get in games like that and you kind of forget about your left tackle, that’s a good thing.”

The idea with moving Decker to the right side isn’t easily justifiable. After all, he is coming off his best season, where he allowed a career-low two sacks and 29 quarterback pressures. He also committed a career-low six penalties while playing all 1,046 offensive snaps for the Lions. He finished the year graded as Pro Football Focus’ eighth-best left tackle in football in 2020.

Decker has played right tackle previously, but you have to go back to 2013, when he was a sophomore at Ohio State. Talking about Sewell’s adjustment a couple weeks back, Decker envisioned how much more difficult the challenge would be for him, based on the tendencies he’s developed during that stretch.

“It’s not something that I’ve done in the past eight, nine years,” Decker said last month when praising Sewell’s commitment to the transition. “Just body mechanics. I have so many imbalances in my body just from being in a left stance for the last eight, nine years, and your body just gets used to that. Different things with your shoulders, different things with your hip, your back.”

Another potential position switch Campbell isn’t ready to discuss is what will happen with cornerback Jeff Okudah once he comes back from the ruptured Achilles he suffered in the season opener against San Francisco.

Some have wondered if Okudah, who already lacked elite speed for the cornerback position, might be better suited for a shift to safety once he returns, given many players coming back from Achilles often lose some athleticism.

“Yeah, we’re not even there on that,” Campbell told 97.1. “Here’s the good thing about Okudah, he has a ton of God-given ability, freakish ability. Even if he doesn’t come back as a freak anymore, then he’s just below a freak, athletically, coming off an Achilles. Until those guys come back, you never know how a guy is going to react. Everybody is different and I’ve seen enough guys that come off Achilles that can still play good football.”

At the scouting combine ahead of the 2020 draft, Okudah showed off that freakish athleticism in the vertical and broad jumps, posting elite marks for an NFL prospect, regardless of position. His 40-yard dash, which he ran in 4.48 seconds, was above-average for a cornerback, but the more important 10- and 20-yard splits were closer to average.

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