Jeff Okudah has taken some important steps entering his third NFL season, but he knows he has more to do.
Being the third overall pick in the draft carries plenty of pressure, but Jeff Okudah was also being relied on to replace the departed Darius Slay as a rookie in 2020. Then he dealt with some injuries, and he struggled in the nine games he did play.
A new regime in 2021 promised a reset for plenty of Lions’ players, Okudah prominent among them. But a potential rebound never got going, as he tore his Achilles in Week 1 and of course missed the remainder of the season.
Okudah went into training camp with little or no restrictions on his participation level. Then, with good showings in each of the last two preseason games, head coach Dan Campbell anointed him the starting cornerback opposite Amani Oruwariye.
Getting fully healthy was one step. Performing well enough to win a starting job was the next. Okudah knows he has more to do.
Jeff Okudah knows he has a lot more to prove
Okudah spoke to the media on Thursday. He is proud of what he’s done up to now, and he should be. But he knows the work is far from done.
I still have a lot more to accomplish,” “I’m proud, but at the same time I’m as motivated as ever and as hungry as ever because I don’t think that I’ve come close to accomplishing my goals.”
Per Twentyman, Okudah said he’s stronger and faster then he was before the injury. While that’s easy to dismiss as hyperbole along the same line as a player saying he’s in the “best shape of his life”, Okudah also conveyed a confidence in himself it doesn’t seem he previously had.
From his angle, Lions general manager Brad Holmes has gained appreciation and respect for Okudah.
I appreciate the way Jeff Okudah responded and he was challenged, and he earned it,” Holmes said. “And we were upfront and honest with him and he didn’t cower, back down or anything, he took it and he earned it. So, a lot of those questions were answered and it was much appreciated.”
Meaningful games are the next step, and test, for Okudah. If he can put together a breakout season, the Lions’ secondary and defense as a whole could take that step right along with him.