Detroit Lions’ Aaron Glenn wants this trait above all else in the CBs he drafts

Detroit Free Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Aaron Glenn played 15 NFL seasons with five different teams. He made three Pro Bowls as a cornerback, and in his second life as a coach, he knows what he wants in the position.

“I think the first thing that (I look for) is personality,” Glenn said last week at the NFL combine. “Like, how do they come in? How confident are they? How do they go about opportunity with the installs?

“And, me personally, I can tell right off the top, is this one of the guys that’s going to get after it, because of just the way he operates. There is a certain aura about him, and I would say this about a corner and a receiver, that you can get immediately just from personality-wise. That shows up.”

The Detroit Lions spent the week at the combine looking for upgrades to their secondary in what is being touted as a strong cornerback draft.

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Jerry Jacobs and Jeff Okudah are slated to return as starters in 2023, but Okudah was benched late in the season and most of the Lions’ depth at the position — Amani Oruwariye, Will Harris and Mike Hughes — is headed for unrestricted free agency.

Glenn chalked Okudah’s late-season struggles up to being part of “the life of a corner.”

Okudah held opposing quarterbacks to a 59.7% completion rate on passes thrown his direction last season, according to Pro Football Reference. but he got burned in coverage in December games against the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers, was benched for most of the second half of the Lions’ Week 16 loss in Carolina and split playing time with Hughes in a Week 17 win over the Chicago Bears before missing the season finale with an elbow injury.

“He has to improve,” Glenn said. “I will say that, along with everybody else on our defense. And he knows that, and he did improve. But there is always going to be peaks and valleys when you play that position. You try to stay at the top as much as you can. But it’s hard. It’s hard. But I’ll tell you what, he is busting his butt. His trying his butt off to be at that top of the peak all the time.”

Though Okudah is known as a cerebral player, Glenn insisted the No. 3 pick of the 2020 NFL draft has the demeanor he wants in his cornerbacks — one he plans to prioritize going forward.

“I think that’s one thing sometimes people miss on, they don’t look at that,” Glenn said. “They just look at, ‘OK, what is a guy talking about when you go through all the installs and all that,’ instead of looking at the personality. How does he walk in the room? How does he leave the room? How’s he shake your hand? Like all those things. Is it confidently? Is it soft? Is it, man that tells you a lot, especially about that position.”

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Family ties

Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez, one of the top corners in this year’s draft, is the sister of Olympic hurdler Melissa Gonzalez, the wife of former Lions quarterback David Blough.

Gonzalez, who is vying to be the first cornerback drafted along with Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon and Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., said it would be “a lot of fun” to play with Blough, who is currently with the Arizona Cardinals.

“We’re always talking about it,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve never done it. I’d be excited. He doesn’t talk the most smack, but he still talks his smack.”

Gonzalez had the first four interceptions of his career last season at Oregon after starting the previous two years at Colorado. He said Blough has been a sounding board for him as he prepares for the NFL.

“(He’s) somebody that I talked to growing up all the time,” Gonzalez said. “He was always around the house. I remember playing with him when I was like 10 years old, just running around and throwing the ball. It’s all come full circle and it’s been great to have him in my corner.”

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Gonzalez called his sister the best athlete in the family.

“Olympian, so I’m going to give it to her,” he said.

But he said he could beat his sister in the 40-yard dash. Melissa, running for Colombia, reached the semifinals of the 400 meter hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Christian a 4.38-second 40 at the combine this week, seventh fastest among cornerbacks.

“In the 40? Yeah, I got them in that short (distance),” Christian said. “They got the long distance.”

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

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