Notes: It took some time, but Jeff Okudah is finding his footing as a pro

Pride of Detroit

When cornerback Jeff Okudah was drafted third overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2020 NFL draft, I am sure he had no idea just what he was in for. The prior regime of Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn were on their last legs as coach and general manager, and taking Okudah was supposed to be one of the final pieces Patricia needed to make his defensive scheme work. And well, we all know how that turned out.

Okudah had a turbulent rookie year, ending with him on injured reserve due to a groin injury that required season-ending surgery. Then, one week into 2021, Okudah tore his achilles, once again cutting his year short. Two tough years to begin a career that was supposed to be steeped in success.

To his credit, Okudah never seemed to waver during his recovery process. Coach Dan Campbell praised his commitment from the moment he took over as head coach. To open 2022 training camp, Campbell and the coaching staff challenged the third-year cornerback, telling him he would be competing with Will Harris for the starting job opposite Amani Oruwariye. Before camp had finished, Okudah had that competition wrapped up.

“Okudah hasn’t just won a starting job for the Lions. He has become one of the team’s tentpoles”, wrote Ben Solak in his breakdown of Okudah’s hot start to 2022. “The Lions want to play man coverage, and they want to blitz. You can’t do that without cornerbacks who can travel with opposing receivers and play man coverage without help, as the help has already been sent on a blitz. Through three weeks of the season, Okudah has been the best and most important player on the Lions defense.”

The Lions defense is far from complete, and will need an infusion of talent before the Lions are serious contenders in the NFC. However, having a player like Okudah on your roster is a major step in the right direction. A big, physical corner that can run, flip his hips, and travel with the other team’s best receiver. Those kinds of players don’t grow on trees.

You can read the entirety of Solak’s piece here, and if you are like me and enjoy thorough film breakdowns, this is a must-read.

And now, onto the rest of today’s notes:

  • Right tackle Penei Sewell continues to ball and at this point in his career, it’s already what I have come to expect from him. He is that good.
  • If I am defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn or defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant, I am making sure Okudah and the rest of the room are at least aware of this.
  • Lions rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez sat down with team reporter Dannie Rogers to discuss his strong start in Detroit.
  • More high praise of Okudah—this time from Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.
  • We know Amon-Ra St. Brown has been good this season, but Josh Reynolds is also having himself a nice start to the year.

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