The Detroit Lions selected Jeff Okudah with the No. 3 pick with designs of him playing a big immediate role for the team.
How close is that role to playing out? Probably a little ways off still, but regardless, the talent has been evident early on in camp for Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin. Speaking with the media over the weekend, Undlin was asked about Okudah’s trajectory. As he said, he has started slow, but the rookie hasn’t been on the field a ton for the team either.
“He’s a rookie and he missed a couple practices there early in camp. He’s really been on the grass 7 times. For me myself, I got to keep the perspective where it should be. Without OTA’s, and I know you can meet on Zoom and we spent all that time on those Zoom meetings, it’s not the same. When it starts and it’s live, there’s an adjustment that’s got to take place. Not to mention the running around with the wideouts we have on offense. But at the end of the day, after 7 practices for him or 8, he is on a steady incline which is all we can ask. I like the direction he’s heading in. We aren’t there yet. I don’t think any of us are there yet.”
A coach pressing pause on the hype machine for a rookie is nothing new, and in this case it’s not only justified but probably important. Okudah is transitioning to the league at a very difficult position to play. How much the team elects to get him involved is anybody’s guess, but it’s fair to say that the team will be prepared to lean on him at some point fairly early on.
While the start has been slow, Undlin still sees good things going for Okudah.
Lions Cornerback Battle Fierce
Detroit has a good competition brewing in the second level, where Amani Oruwaryie and Desmond Trufant have stepped up early and shown their stuff. Tony McRae has also taken steps toward showing he can be a key veteran contributor, and prior to injury, Mike Ford was looking like a player who was going to carve out a role on the roster for the team. All told, the team has fairly good depth at the spot.
Where does Okudah fit in with this? Likely near the top of this group when all is said and done and camp eventually concludes, but cornerback can be a difficult position to master at the next level. The team is probably very smart to be starting him slow, especially given the way the offseason has played out in 2020.
Jeff Okudah Impressed Intercepting Matthew Stafford
A few weeks ago during camp, Okudah impressed by intercepting Matthew Stafford which capped off a nice day for him. So far, it’s been an up and down start for Okudah with things being more down than up in recent days, but for him to be able to intercept Stafford is a major feather in the cap for any rookie.
Jeff Okudah had his best day of practice so far — intercepting a deep Matthew Stafford pass to Marvin Jones. It was, I believe, Stafford's first interception of camp. He also worked with the first team with Desmond Trufant not working in team drills… https://t.co/hJWlHnCB0Z
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) August 21, 2020
Many others also noticed Okudah standing out and cited him as one of the more impressive players on the field during practice.
A few impressions from my trip @Lions training camp today on a few new players.Danny Shelton is a beast,Huntley is fast as s*it and Okudah was very good. One other observation is Da’Shawn Hand will be a problem for the other team.
— michael stone (@stoney16) August 21, 2020
Okudah comes into Detroit with tons of pressure being he is the No. 3 pick in the draft, but it will be important for folks to remember that he is also playing a tough position on the field. It’s not easy for cornerbacks to adjust, and it will take time.
For Okudah to be playing that well early on after only a week of camp is good news. The hope is he can continue to stack good practices on top of one another to help out the team and assert himself as a starter in the weeks ahead.
How much run he will get when the season opens in a few weeks is anyone’s guess, but at the very least, he’s on the right track.