Amani Oruwariye is having the best season of his NFL career.
He leads the Detroit Lions — and is tied for third in the NFL — with five interceptions, and he ranks 10th in Pro Bowl voting among cornerbacks.
But one big blemish on Oruwariye’s season came two months ago, when Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson beat him for most of his seven catches and 124 yards.
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Oruwariye and Jefferson will square off again Sunday when the Lions host the Vikings at Ford Field, though Oruwariye downplayed their rematch Thursday.
“I ain’t got nothing to prove to him or nobody,” Oruwariye said. “I’m proving it to myself, if anything. I don’t get into personal battles with nobody like that, I just go out there and make sure I’m trying to put my best foot forward for the team.”
Increasingly, Oruwariye has done that for the Lions.
He has allowed more than three completions in a game just once since the Lions’ 19-17 loss to the Vikings on Oct. 10, and last week was his second straight game with an interception.
Lions safety Tracy Walker nicknamed Oruwariye “Lucky Charms” because many of the third-year cornerback’s interceptions have been right-place, right-time type plays. But last week, Oruwariye jumped a route to tight end Jesse James in the end zone and nearly had a second interception.
“Whatever we can do to get the ball to our offense, I’ll take it,” Oruwariye said. “If that means calling me ‘Lucky Charms,’ call me ‘Lucky Charms.’ But yeah, man, the ball, it’s been finding me, and I’m just making sure I can just secure it every single time.”
Oruwariye said he feels better prepared for his matchup with Jefferson, the NFL’s third-leading receiver, because of the growth he has made as a player and in the Lions’ defense.
“I’ve took a step back and realized how he’s being used and where they’re trying to get him in certain route combinations,” Oruwariye said. “(I’m looking) at it more from an offensive coordinator perspective rather than just a one-on-one battle type of thing, so we’ll see how it goes. But yeah, he’s a good player, man. So we’re going to compete, we’re going to go at it.”
As for his place in Pro Bowl voting, in which he ranks eighth among NFC cornerbacks, four spots behind ex-teammate Darius Slay, Oruwariye said, “it’s an honor to even have my name mentioned.”
“I’ve definitely worked my tail off to try to get to that point, but it’s so much farther to go,” he said. “I feel like my ceiling is the sky. So just got to just keep going, that’s it.”
Anthony Lynn said last month he understood why Dan Campbell assumed offensive play calling duties and “probably would’ve done the same thing” with the Lions (0-10-1) still searching for their first win.
But that doesn’t mean Lynn is happy with his new role on the coaching staff.
“Three weeks going into this thing, knowing what Dan wants, trying to assist him the best I can, very comfortable with the role,” Lynn said Thursday. “Don’t mistake comfortable for liking the role, but yeah, very comfortable with the role. And I want to help and assist Dan the best I can.”
Campbell took over play calling during the Lions’ Week 9 bye and has said he plans to continue in that role the rest of the season.
Lynn remains the Lions’ offensive coordinator and continues to oversee the team’s running game and protection packages, though Campbell controls the headset communication with quarterback Jared Goff during games.
Tight ends coach Ben Johnson has taken on a greater role helping design the pass game.
“I think Ben’s done an outstanding job, and I noticed that a month or two on the job,” Lynn said. “I didn’t know some of these guys when I got here, but I think in the passing game, with his background, being a former quarterback and running the passing game, I think he is outstanding in that area and he is helping a lot.”
The Lions are averaging 13.3 points during Campbell’s three games as play-caller, compared to 16.8 points per game under Lynn.
Penei Sewell and KhaDarel Hodge were limited participants in practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with a non-COVID-19-related illness. Running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder), defensive end Trey Flowers (knee), linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder) and cornerback Bobby Price (shoulder) remain out for the Lions. … In addition to Oruwariye, tight end TJ Hockenson (seventh), fullback Jason Cabinda (fifth) and long snapper Scott Daly (sixth) are the only Lions who rank in the top of Pro Bowl voting by position.